Cantwell Continues to Fight Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Senator highlights flaws in Energy Committee proposal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) continues to fight against drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). In a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Wednesday, Cantwell outlined her opposition to the committee’s approval of a measure that would allow drilling in the wildlife refuge, and vowed to continue the fight on the floor of the Senate.

"Destroying a national wildlife refuge is not the answer to our nation’s energy problems," said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "Even if oil companies drill in the wildlife refuge and hit peak production in 2025, it will only lower gas prices by a penny per gallon. That’s not very impressive when consumers in Washington state are already paying almost three dollars a gallon for gas."

The Senate Budget Committee included in its version of the Fiscal Year 2006 budget resolution provisions that would pave the way to opening the Arctic for oil drilling. Under this resolution, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee was directed to come up with $2.4 billion in revenue, which today they used as a justification to open up ANWR to oil and gas extraction.

"Using the budget process to give the green light to irreversible damage to this natural treasure is underhanded and irresponsible," said Cantwell. "In our haste to feed our oil addiction, we’re about to waive bedrock environmental safeguards and destroy irreplaceable federal lands for less than a year’s supply of oil."

In order to try and meet the budget reconciliation instructions, drilling proponents had to assume revenues were split between Alaska and the federal government on an even, 50-50 basis. However, the State of Alaska has long maintained that, under its Statehood Act, it is due 90 percent of the revenues generated from natural resource development on federal lands within its boundaries.

Cantwell had an amendment that would have prevented the State of Alaska from moving forward with leasing and drilling if it tried to sue for a greater than 50 percent share.

Last March, Senator Cantwell led a Senate floor debate to try and strip this budget reconciliation instruction from the budget resolution. Unfortunately, that effort just barely filed on a 49 to 51 vote.

Established by President Eisenhower in 1960, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska is a diverse and fragile ecosystem. Proponents of drilling want to open up the most biologically diverse part of the Refuge, the coastal plain, to oil exploration. This area serves as a critical habitat for caribou, musk ox, swans, snow geese and numerous other species. It is also home to the 150,000 animal Porcupine caribou herd, critically important to the culture and the subsistence lifestyle of the Native American Gwich'in tribe in Northeast Alaska and Canada.