WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2017 - Senate Republicans passed a budget resolution that environmental groups say would likely lead to drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The resolution includes instructions to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to generate $1 billion over 10 years for the federal budget. Previously, the House Budget instructed the Natural Resources committee to generate $3.6 billion over 10 years through similar mechanisms.

By using the budget reconciliation process, protections for the Arctic Refuge can be overturned by a simple majority vote.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told her colleagues that they should view the budget instructions “as an opportunity to do something constructive for the country.”

“It’s about jobs, and job creation. It’s about wealth and wealth creation,” she said, adding that drilling in the refuge is “not the only option” for how her panel could find $1 billion in new revenue. “But I will tell you it is the best option, and it’s on the table.”

The Sierra Club disagrees. It claims the budget resolution maintains tax giveaways for the fossil fuel industry while providing massive tax cuts for millionaires, leaving middle class families to pay for corporate polluters’ profits.

“We cannot allow corporate polluters to benefit at the cost of either the people of the Gwich’in Nation, whose livelihoods depend on the Arctic Refuge, or at the cost of working families and the middle class who are already being forced to breathe dirtier air and drink dirtier water,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune in a statement.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reiterated that the approved budget would undermine protections for the Arctic Refuge, other public lands and offshore areas from oil and gas drilling.

“They’re acting against the public interest – using a backdoor gimmick to open the pristine Arctic Refuge and our other public lands and offshore areas to indiscriminate oil and gas exploitation – all to pad the profits of big polluters,” said Franz Matzner, deputy director of  federal campaigns in the Center for Policy Advocacy at NRDC. “This is not sound fiscal management of taxpayer money. And it must be stopped.”