(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) joined Representative Huffman (D-CA) and 47 Members of Congress in sending a letter urging the House Appropriators to protect the American taxpayer and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by holding the Trump Administration accountable to the fiscal promises made in the Republican tax bill. Senator Markey (D-MA) led a similar effort in the Senate.

This year, the House cast a historic vote for Huffman's H.R. 1146, the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, to restore the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s protections against oil and gas drilling that were in effect before the passage of the 2017 Republican tax bill. In keeping with the House’s commitment to protecting the Arctic Refuge, the nation’s largest wildlife refuge, the House also included language in the Fiscal Year 2020 Interior Appropriations bill that would prevent a lease sale unless the Trump administration took action to ensure that such a lease sale would produce sufficient revenue to match the projections from the Republican tax bill.

“The Trump administration’s latest deliverable for their fossil fuel cronies is a rushed, massively discounted lease sale that not only will devastate our pristine Arctic Refuge, it will also shortchange American taxpayers,” said Representative Huffman. “The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last true wild places left in America.  While no amount of money justifies opening it up to oil development, the Trump administration's flawed process adds insult to injury because it would award drilling rights at a fraction of the price the administration and the GOP Congress promised when they jammed the refuge drilling provision into their tax 2017 tax cut bill.  This proposed lease sale is illegal, environmentally and fiscally reckless, and it must be stopped.  We cannot allow America’s Arctic Refuge to be managed like a blue light special at K-Mart.”

“The Arctic Refuge should never be auctioned off to be despoiled by fossil fuel corporations. It is America’s last wild place, the source of the Gwich’in people’s way of life for generations, and home to rare and threatened wildlife. This amendment would prevent the Republicans from selling this treasure to the oil and gas industry for pennies. We simply cannot let that happen, for the Gwich’in people, for the animals of the Arctic, and for the American people who collectively own our beautiful public lands,” said Senator Markey.

"On behalf of the Gwich'in Nation, we thank our congressional leaders, Representative Huffman and Senator Markey, for listening to the voice of our people,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “When we have people in leadership respect human rights and Indigenous voices, we know that change is happening. The Gwich'in have a cultural and spiritual connection to the Arctic Refuge, the coastal plain and the Porcupine caribou herd that calves there each summer. Our way of life and the caribou have been connected for thousands of years. Our survival is interconnected to the survival of the caribou. Today we give thanks to all who stand with the Gwich'in Nation and those who respect our way of life."

“Auctioning off the wildest place left in America is not only morally corrupt but fiscally irresponsible. As the Trump administration rushes at breakneck speed to sell off the iconic Arctic Refuge to oil interests it has ignored its promise to generate $2 billion from those lease sales, making very real the possibility that Americans will soon bear witness to the fire sale of a national treasure. We commend Representative Huffman and Senator Markey and their colleagues for insisting that any final Interior-EPA Appropriations bill include bipartisan-backed language directing the Interior Department to require lease sales meet the promised revenue target in the 2017 Tax Act,” said Adam Kolton, executive director at Alaska Wilderness League. “Drilling proponents objecting to this language should be made to explain what they believe would be a fair price is for putting at risk the indigenous cultures, caribou, polar bears and other wildlife that depend on this cherished landscape. Two years after weaseling Arctic drilling into their tax bill, the pro-drilling crowd now describes their own revenue promises to be arbitrary, unrealistic and will ‘kill development.’ That tells you that no one, not within the Trump administration and not Senator Murkowski, ever believed their own revenue justifications, and that we are in the midst of the most egregious public land heists in American history.”

“Two years ago, oil industry allies in Congress were able to take advantage of the expedited reconciliation process to include an Arctic Refuge leasing mandate in the 2017 tax bill without full and fair Congressional debate,” the Representatives stated in their letter. “This controversial provision, which would lead to irreversible damage of a pristine wilderness and risk the continued survival of the way of life of the Gwich’in people, should never have been included in unrelated tax legislation. However, pro-drilling members of Congress justified this effort by promising that over a billion dollars would go to the federal treasury from Arctic Refuge leasing and, further, that any lease sale would take place under a careful environmental review, consultation, and public engagement process.

“The recently finalized process was a clear violation of the commitment to ensure Refuge development would not sacrifice wildlife or the environment for the sake of oil development. Now, with a lease sale expected in December, it is essential that Congress holds the administration accountable to the revenue projections laid out when passing this reckless provision.” concluded the members. 

This letter was signed by Representatives Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Barabara Lee (CA-13), Sean Casten (IL-06), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Mike Levin (CA-49), Deb Haaland (NM-01), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Diana DeGette (CO-01), Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-04), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02), Harley Rouda (CA-48), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Mike Doyle (PA-18), Maxine Waters (CA-43), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Daniel W. Lipinski (IL-03), Bill Foster (IL-11), Daniel T. Kildee (MI-05), Peter Welch (VT At-Large), Susan A. Davis (CA-53), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Lou Correa (CA-46), Darren Soto (FL-09), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Cynthia Axne (IA-03), Jared Golden (ME-02)

Full text of the letter can be found here.