House approves bill to bolster contentious drilling project in Arctic wildlife refuge

The House on Wednesday approved controversial legislation that would reinstate rights to drill in a wildlife refuge that were overturned by the Biden administration.

The bill, which passed in a 214-199 vote, would reinstate six oil and gas leases to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that the Biden administration revoked last year.

Two members, Reps. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) and Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) voted “present.”

Peltola was an original co-sponsor of the bill but said in a floor speech that she would vote present over a provision she did not support that would “nullify” a climate resilience area in the state.

The refuge is home to caribou herds, wolves and more than 200 species of birds, as well as land considered sacred to the Gwich’in people.

Supporters of drilling there say it could open up economic activities, including for indigenous groups such as the Iñupiat.

The bill would also undo the administration’s move to ban drilling on 13 million acres in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve — an area that was set aside in the 1920s as emergency oil for the Navy and home to wildlife including caribou herds and polar bears.

While the legislation has some bipartisan support, it’s unlikely to move past the Democrat-led Senate or win White House approval.

It does, however, express House Republicans’ disapproval with the Biden administration’s policy, and puts swing-district lawmakers on the record.

Updated at 7:10 pm EST.

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