On June 20th, the House of Representatives passed their Interior Appropriations bill, which funds the entire National Wildlife Refuge System. Included in that bill was $514 million for Refuge System Operations & Maintenance, which funds nearly all the work done on refuges. If enacted into law, this increase would be a much-needed $26 million over the current FY2019 funding, and the highest amount ever appropriated for the Refuge System.
Also included in that bill was a provision that would require the Administration to raise at least $500 million from lease sales in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge System. When Congress opened the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas drilling in the 2017 Tax Bill, the American taxpayers were promised that the lease sales for drilling would raise at least $1 billion for the federal government, which would help offset the tax cuts. This provision would hold the Administration accountable to that promise and is opposed by the Alaska delegation. The Refuge Association strongly supports the inclusion of this language in the final bill, but we do not anticipate it becoming law.
On the Senate side, we’re still waiting to see any numbers out of the appropriations committees, but we have been told not to expect a similar increase as the House. In addition, given Senator Murkowski’s (R-AK) position as Chair of the Interior Subcommittee, we expect her to strongly oppose the Arctic Refuge language outlined above.
The reason we have not seen any Senate language is a disagreement and failure to pass a bill laying out top-line budget numbers. When the Senate passes a budget resolution, we expect to see some movement on the appropriations bills.