Republicans will claim victory in their "multigenerational fight" to open up oil drilling in the Arctic once the Senate passes tax reform legislation, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the author of the bill's energy provision, declared on the Senate floor Tuesday evening.
The Alaska Republican called it the “single most important step" for energy independence and wealth creation in the country. The Senate was expected to vote on the tax bill Tuesday night before it goes back to the House for a revote Wednesday and then to President Trump.
The energy measure would allow for limited drilling in the 1002 section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Murkowski's home state.
She said it has been a 38-year fight to open the section to drilling, even though Congress designated the area specifically for oil exploration and drilling.
Murkowski said her Democratic colleagues have gotten it wrong in opposing drilling in the refuge. The section of the refuge set aside for drilling was never in a wilderness area.
So concerns about destroying the habitat and laying waste to a pristine wildlife area is "not what we’re talking about here," she said. “I am offended … and horrified” that critics say it will be turned into an “industrial wasteland” if drilling begins there, she said.
“We will do it with a care and concern for the environment,” Murkowski said.
The area contains an estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil, which global supply forecasts show will be in high demand, she said.
“The reality is world oil demand is rising, not falling,” Murkowski said. Oil exports are making the "energy system more efficient, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need more supply," she said.
Oil drilling in the refuge is expected to raise $1.1 billion in initial royalties and fees to the government. But it could generate tens or hundreds of billions of dollars for the Treasury.
That would create “new wealth” while adding thousands of jobs with high wages, she said.