Peltola refuses to vote for the Arctic drilling bill she previously supported, citing Alaska Beacon’s fishing policy

The US House of Representatives voted Wednesday to reverse the federal government’s decision to cancel oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and limit oil development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, but Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola declined to vote for or against the reversal in an unexpected move.

The House bill is not expected to pass the Senate or White House, but the vote gave lawmakers a chance to express their position on Arctic drilling ahead of this fall’s elections.

Then the Biden administration ANWR rental contracts canceled in 2023The decision infuriated Alaska’s elected officials and the state’s development bank, which owned several of these leases.

The bank, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, files a lawsuit over the issue and is joined by the state and North Slope Borough government.

Peltola and the rest of Alaska’s congressional delegation said at the time that they were disappointed by the cancellationand then Peltola joined House Republicans in drafting a legislative response, which culminated in Wednesday’s bill.

Then the Ministry of the Interior announced that would restrict drilling in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, that topic was also added to the bill.

Peltola was the only Democratic lawmaker among the bill’s 16 co-sponsors, but when she spoke in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, she said she would only vote “present,” not for or against the bill.

The problem, she said, was that the bill included a provision that would erase the designation of the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area, a part of the ocean where Alaska Native tribes have been given more say in management decisions.

In 2016, when President Barack Obama created the area, he was criticized by Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, as well as then-Rep. Don Young.

Unfortunately, the way this bill is written pits energy development against fishing, and that is why I will be voting today.

– U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska

Peltola has repeatedly said she supports a “pro-fish” policy, and wiping out the area seemed to contradict that position.

“By destroying this area, we are breaking our promise to tribes and directly harming fishing communities. Alaskans face many challenges and threats to our unique way of life,” she said. “We are about to be forced to import natural gas from abroad and our fishermen are in the midst of an economic free fall, coupled with depleted fish stocks. Unfortunately, the way this bill is written pits energy development against fisheries, and for that reason I will be voting present today.”

Peltola tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill on the spot to remove the provision, saying she had introduced a “clean” version of the bill that does not include the provision.

Still, Republicans in the House of Representatives said they were surprised by Peltola’s actions and wondered why she didn’t raise the issue sooner when it may have already been discussed in committee.

A Peltola aide said the item was buried in an executive order nullifying ANWR leases within the bill, and her amendment to remove it was only possible at specific times after she learned of it.

Before the final vote, Peltola’s office sent a message to fellow lawmakersShe said the Bering Sea provision was a “significant unintended consequence” and urged them to vote against the bill.

Peltola is one of a handful of House Democrats representing districts that voted for Donald Trump in 2020, and the National Republican Congressional Committee has made dethroning her a priority.

In a statement after her vote on the drilling bill, NRCC spokesman Ben Petersen said in a prepared statement: “Biden’s liberal war on Alaska is Peltola’s greatest political liability and Alaskans will not forget it today.”