Some of the nation’s most iconic natural resources are under siege from industrial activity. Yet if each of these threats could be legislatively addressed standing alone, they would likely succumb to Congress buckling from public pressure.
One of these threats involves the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s (ANWWR) 1.5 million acre coastal plain, the nation’s last intact wilderness ecosystem and habitat to a multitude of rare flora and fauna. After decades of successfully protecting ANWR from industrial encroachment, environmentalists lost out to Senator Lisa Murkowski, R- Alaska. She used her energy committee chairmanship to fold an authorization for ANWR oil drilling into a successfully considered tax bill.
Environmentalists have not ceased their effort to preserve the coastal plain from degradation at the hands of the fossil fuel industry. They received a slight reprieve, thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That agency has not completed environmental impact statements on industry’s projected impact on the coastal plain’s animals and plants.
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., has introduced a bill to repeal the exploitation of ANWR by industrial activity. If Congress could ever take on this bill in isolation, passage would undoubtedly be forthcoming. Few lawmakers would dare defy public opinion polls that show overwhelming support for preserving ANWWR in its natural state.
Unfortunately, dealing with ANWR on an individual basis just won’t happen as long as a Senate Republican majority leadership backing Murkowski’s grand scheme is in power.
Then there is President Trump’s Forest Service making noises about permitting uranium mining and its pollution potential in areas adjacent to the Grand Canyon National Park. Given the history of bipartisan support and strong national and local backing for permanent protection of the Canyon, uranium mining’s prospects would
seem dim. The future appears to belong to a pending bill sponsored by Rep, Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. It would preserve the Grand Canyon for posterity, with passage further enhanced in light of Congress just having granted similar protection to Yellowstone National Park.
The Boundary Waters designated wilderness in Minnesota is the most visited wilderness area in the nation. Nevertheless, that has not deterred the Trump Administration from moving to reverse a ban on adjacent mineral mining. Such an operation would jeopardize the water quality of Boundary’s series of pristine lakes.
Trump’s effort to reverse President Obama’s Boundary mining ban (as is Trump’s case with everything Obama) has prompted a flurry of lawsuits filed by the environmental community and bolstered by strong national and local sentiment.
Last but not least and perspire. The same congressman Huffman has introduced a non-binding resolution to repeal president Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate accord. Given a two-thirds overall majority approval of remaining in the treaty in public opinion polls, the odds favor its affirmation in Congress if standing alone. At present, however, it would never reach the Senate floor with Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell faithfully carrying the water for President Trump.
All is not lost. The United States is technically a member of the treaty until 2020 when a more accommodating commander in chief might be at the helm.
In summary, if public opinion ultimately is accorded the weight that it merits, legislative rescue of the aforementioned beleaguered resources is in the cards.