U.S. President Barack Obama is asking Congress to prohibit oil and gas drilling across 12 million acres (4.85 million hectares) of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, including 1.4 million acres (567,000 hectares) of coastal lands that hold an estimated 10.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil.
The Interior Department announced the decision Sunday, two days after Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a bill to permit oil production in the Refuge.
While Murkowski accused the President of a politically motivated attack on her state, David Hayes of the Center for American Progress countered that “other oilfields are available. The Arctic Refuge is too special a place to drill.”
Last week, Obama issued an executive order creating an Arctic Executive Steering Committee “to wrangle the numerous agencies in charge of Arctic programs and better coordinate their work in the face of climate change,” InsideClimate News reported.
“Over the past 60 years, climate change has caused the Alaskan Arctic to warm twice as rapidly as the rest of the United States,” the order states, “and will continue to transform the Arctic as its consequences grow more severe.”
Later this year, the U.S. is set to take over the chair of the Arctic Council for a two-year term.