A major part of the energy debate has been whether to approve energy development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in northeastern Alaska, and if so, under what conditions, or whether to continue to prohibit development to protect the area's biological resources. ANWR is rich in fauna, flora, and commercial oil potential. Its development has been debated for over 40 years, but increases in gasoline and natural gas prices, terrorist attacks, and infrastructure damage from hurricanes have intensified the debate. Current law forbids energy leasing in ANWR. This report provides a summary of legislative attempts to address issues of energy development and preservation in the Refuge from the 95th Congress through the 110th Congress, with emphasis on the 108th through 110th Congresses.
This history has been cited by many, in and out of Congress, as background for issues that may be raised in future Congresses. The substance of this issue is covered in other CRS reports. See CRS Report RL33872, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): New Directions in the 110th Congress, for information on actions in the 110th Congress relative to ANWR.
In the first session of the 110th Congress, the House rejected a motion to recommit H.R. 3221 to the Energy and Commerce Committee with instructions that it be reported back with language authorizing ANWR development.
In the second session, the House rejected a motion to adjust budget levels to assume increased revenues from opening ANWR to development. Also in the second session, the Senate rejected an amendment (S.Amdt. 4720) to S. 2284 to open ANWR to energy development.
The ANWR debate took two basic legislative routes in the 109th Congress: (1) budget resolutions and reconciliation bills (S.Con.Res. 18, H.Con.Res. 95, S. 1932, H.R. 4241, S.Con.Res. 83, and H.Con.Res. 376), which cannot be filibustered; and (2) other bills (H.R. 6, an omnibus energy bill; H.R. 2863, Defense appropriations; and H.R. 5429, a bill in the second session to open the Refuge to development), which are subject to filibusters. In none of these measures did Congress reach agreement to allow development.