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Senate Republicans Court Lisa Murkowski With Budget Plan That Opens Alaska to Oil and Gas Drilling

On Friday, the Senate released its 2018 budget plan with a provision that would open up Alaska's pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

The appropriations bill asks the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for an extra billion dollars in new revenue, which could come from oil reserves beneath the refuge. The Trump administration has claimed that drilling there could bring in as much as $3.6 billion over 10 years, according to ThinkProgress, though many have questioned the accuracy of those revenue numbers.

Senate Republicans appear to be courting the vote of Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chair of the Senate energy committee and a long-time advocate of opening up the refuge to drilling. Murkowski famously helped to tank the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare, but the rider would make it harder for her to vote against the budget and, later, the Republican tax plan.

The majority of Americans and at least two Republicans senators—John McCain (R-Arizona) and Susan Collins (R-Maine)—are against drilling beneath the refuge, but the inclusion of the provision in an appropriations bill limits critics' ability to oppose development on the protected land.