Senate Democrats Call for Ban on Arctic Offshore Drilling

A group of 10 Senate Democrats and one independent called for the Department of the Interior to block offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean in its 2017-2022 drilling plan, in a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Friday.

The senators acknowledged they had already won a significant victory when the department excluded drilling in the Atlantic from its proposed plan, which was released in March. But they urged Jewell to exclude leases from “vulnerable areas such as the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas,” to the northwest and north of Alaska, respectively.

The senators offered more of a “keep-it-in-the-ground” rationale against fossil fuel production instead of focusing on specific environmental issues related to drilling in the Arctic. After the signing of the Paris climate agreement, the senators said, taking “new fossil fuel leases off the table will send another powerful international signal that the United States is indeed dedicated to investing in the transition to a low carbon economy.”

The letter was signed by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).