in Natural Resources Policy
Beth A. Roberts Information Research Specialist
forbids the federal government from offering energy leases or from allowing activities
leading to energy development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in northeastern
Alaska. For several decades, a major energy debate has been whether to approve energy
development in ANWR, and if so, under what conditions; or whether to continue
to prohibit development to protect the area’s biological resources. ANWR
is rich in fauna, flora, and commercial oil potential. Its development has
been debated for over 40 years, and the level of debate fluctuates with
gasoline and natural gas prices, terrorist attacks, infrastructure damage from
hurricanes, and turmoil in the Middle East.
This report provides a summary of legislative attempts to address issues of
energy development and preservation in the Refuge from the 95th Congress
(1977-1978) through March 2012 in the 112th Congress, with emphasis on the
108th through 112th Congresses. (The substance of the issue is covered in
other CRS reports.) There were several periods of active congressional consideration,
punctuated by periods of less activity and debate. In the 96th Congress (1979- 1980),
multiple floor votes occurred in the House and Senate, leading ultimately to
the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (P.L.
96-487). In the 104th Congress (1995- 1996), there were also floor votes
in both bodies; these related to ANWR development measures contained in
budget reconciliation bills. These led, eventually, to a presidential veto. The
107th Congress (2001-2002) saw votes in both bodies in the context of
measures to address energy resources. Ultimately, no ANWR provisions were
approved. In the 108th and 109th Congresses (2003-2006), there were
multiple floor votes in both the House and Senate, in some cases over amendments
that were identical in each Congress. The ANWR development provisions were considered
as parts of bills concerning energy programs, budget resolutions, and defense authorization.
While there were no floor votes in the House or the Senate on the Refuge during
the 111th Congress, in the 112th Congress, the House approved H.R. 3408 on
February 16, 2012. The measure includes a provision to open the 1.5
million acre Coastal Plain to energy development. On March 13, 2012, the
Senate rejected S.Amdt. 1826 to S. 1813 that would have expanded drilling
into areas including the ANWR Coastal Plain.
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