Cantwell: Keep Arctic Drilling Out of Budget
Senator vows to oppose any measure to circumvent legislative process by attaching Arctic drilling to must-pass budget bill
WASHINGTON, DC – Wednesday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, made clear her deep opposition to any move to authorize drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge through the budget process.
“Last year the American people made it clear that they don’t want Congress to use backdoor tricks to implement any policy, let alone one that would destroy an irreplaceable natural treasure,” said Cantwell. “The profit-rich oil industry doesn’t need another underhanded giveaway. American families deserve better. We need real solutions to our energy needs, not rehashed policy that’s been opposed by a majority of Americans time and time again. We stopped this short-sighted proposal last year, and I’ll fight for the same result this year.”
Cantwell led Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), John Kerry (D-MA), and others in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) underscoring their strong opposition to using this year’s budget resolution to authorize drilling in the Refuge.
“We are writing to voice our strong opposition to the inclusion in the Budget Resolution of assumed revenues and reconciliation instructions for the Energy and Natural Resources Committee linked to opening the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas leasing and development,” the senators wrote. “Should this language move forward to the floor of the Senate, we can assure you that every effort will be made to strike these assumed revenues and reconciliation instructions.”
Last December, on the floor of the Senate, Cantwell successfully stopped legislation originally included in a defense spending bill that would have given a green light to Arctic drilling. By leading the fight to keep Arctic drilling out of the 2006 Defense Department Appropriations Act, Cantwell stopped a reckless giveaway to the oil industry and kept the Senate playing by the rules. The Arctic measures previously proposed by drilling proponents, in addition to authorizing drilling, would waive numerous existing environmental laws and regulations in order to clear the way for oil companies.
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.
[The text of Cantwell’s letter to Majority Leader Frist follows below]
March 8, 2006
The Honorable Bill Frist
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Frist:
We are writing to voice our strong opposition to the inclusion in the Budget Resolution of assumed revenues and reconciliation instructions for the Energy and Natural Resources Committee linked to opening the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas leasing and development. Should this language move forward to the floor of the Senate, we can assure you that every effort will be made to strike these assumed revenues and reconciliation instructions. We object to the inclusion of Arctic Refuge oil and gas leasing revenues for two specific reasons.
First, it is irresponsible to base our Nation’s Budget on the highly speculative projections of lease revenues from the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As certain members of the Budget Committee have already pointed out, there is considerable uncertainty regarding the level of revenues that would be obtained from leasing portions of the Arctic Refuge, despite the President’s fiscal year 2007 budget proposal assuming $8 billion and the Congressional Budget Office assuming $6 billion in revenues.
Secondly, we oppose using the reconciliation process to open the Arctic Refuge to drilling because it would limit consideration of this highly controversial issue. Debate over whether to drill the Arctic Refuge’s Coastal Plain has been ongoing for decades, giving rise to considerable passion in the Senate and among Americans from all across the country. By assuming enactment of legislation to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development in its budget reconciliation instruction to the Energy Committee last year, the Budget Committee created a situation in which the legislation considered by the Senate exempted oil and gas development in the Refuge from the normal mineral leasing and environmental laws that govern oil and gas development on all other public lands. Use of the budget reconciliation process to open the Refuge to energy production effectively precludes application of even minimal environmental protections, and prevents the consideration and debate that this important matter warrants.
We also understand that the reconciliation process is being used to address only one Senate Committee’s jurisdiction, and is clearly intended to authorize oil and gas leasing in the Arctic Refuge. This underscores that the real objective of the process is not deficit reduction, but rather to circumvent normal Senate process and procedure with respect to this controversial subject. We hope that you will take steps to ensure that the Budget process is not used in this manner.
Senator Maria Cantwell
Senator Harry Reid
Senator Jeff Bingaman
Senator Joe Lieberman
Senator John Kerry
Senator Hillary Clinton
Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Jack Reed
Senator Patrick Leahy
Senator Richard Durbin
Senator Dianne Feinstein
Senator Robert Menendez
Senator Tom Harkin
Senator Barack Obama
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