Cantwell Fights to Stop Drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge
Flawed Proposal Would Not Reduce Gas Prices or Confront America’s Oil Addiction
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) fought to stop oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) Wednesday. The Senate is scheduled to vote on Cantwell’s anti-drilling amendment sometime Thursday.
"This is about more than just protecting one of America’s last pristine natural treasures," said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "Using backdoor tactics to destroy America’s last great wild frontier will not solve our nation’s energy problems and will do nothing to lower skyrocketing gas prices."
Proponents of the plan claim that drilling in the Refuge can be done in an environmentally benign way, but evidence from adjacent Prudhoe Bay indicates otherwise. According to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Prudhoe Bay oil fields and Trans-Alaska Pipeline have caused an average of 504 spills annually on the North Slope since 1996. Through last year, those spills included more than 1.9 million gallons of toxic substances including diesel, crude oil, and hydraulic oil.
"This is about priorities," said Cantwell. "This is about harnessing American ingenuity to confront our dangerous oil addiction. We need to give our children a future less dependent on fossil fuel. According to the Energy Department’s latest analysis, even if oil companies drill in the wildlife refuge and hit peak production, it will only lower gas prices by a penny per gallon."
Earlier this year, the Senate Budget Committee included in its version of the Fiscal Year 2006 budget resolution provisions that would pave the way to arctic drilling. Cantwell’s amendment would strike language authorizing artic drilling from the Budget Reconciliation bill, undoing this irresponsible manipulation of the budget process and encouraging an honest and open debate of the issue.
Last March, Senator Cantwell led a Senate floor debate to try and strip this provision from the budget resolution. Unfortunately, that effort failed on a 49 to 51 vote. Since then, Cantwell has continued her steadfast opposition to this misguided drilling proposal, which would bring irreversible damage to this unique and fragile ecosystem and put the entire region at risk for a catastrophic oil spill.
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.
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