Cantwell Opposes Inclusion of Arctic Refuge Drilling in Defense Spending Bill

Cantwell: "This is basically giving the oil companies a sweetheart deal around Federal laws and regulations that no other company has ever gotten."

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) went to the floor of the United States Senate Monday to oppose adding drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill. Cantwell was joined by a group of senators at a press conference, after her remarks on the floor, to announce they will use available procedural options to strip this drilling effort from the defense bill.

Cantwell, a member of the Senate’s Commerce and Energy Committees, serves as the chair of Energy Independence 2020 and has been a leader in the fight to stop plans to drill the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Earlier this year, the Senate Budget Committee included in its version of the Fiscal Year 2006 budget resolution provisions that would have paved the way to arctic drilling. Cantwell offered an amendment to strike that language from the Budget Reconciliation bill, undoing this irresponsible manipulation of the budget process and encouraging an honest and open debate of the issue. Unfortunately, that effort failed on a 49 to 51 vote. Reasonable members of the House last month called a halt to the political games and removed the drilling language from the Budget Reconciliation bill. However, last night, the House voted to pass the Defense Appropriations conference report including the Arctic Refuge drilling proposal.

[The full text of Cantwell’s statement on the floor follows below.]


Ms. CANTWELL. Madam President, I rise to raise my concerns about this process and the unbelievable avenues through which this legislation is coming before us, just to try to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling.

As my colleagues have just been discussing on the floor, these are priorities, for Congress to pass the DOD appropriations bill and the DOD authorization bill. As this Senator sees it, we could wrap up this business today and go home. But because a provision in this legislation coming over from the House opens up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, you bet there are Members on this side of the aisle -- Members on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate- who have great concerns over this measure.

As one Senator who would like to wrap up the year today and go home and spend time with my family, I know there are the prospects of us staying here to fight for something we believe in. It is very clear that we could go home today if the Senator from Alaska would agree to take this language out of the bill. So, in fact, this process is being held up over the fact that he has inserted a controversial measure into this legislation. It is such a controversial measure that House Democrats and Republicans refused to vote on a budget bill while it still remained in the legislation. That gives you some idea of how controversial it is. In fact, they took it out of the budget bill because they could not get the budget bill passed with it in there.

Now my colleague wants to say that somehow he is not holding up the process when it is very clear that he is holding up the process. We could all go home today instead of arguing over something that has been argued over for 25 years. There is a reason we have been arguing over it for 25 years, and that is because there has been great division over this issue.

The notion that this is about national security is unbelievable to me. To me, what national security is really about is passing a clean DOD appropriations bill that gives resources to our troops. In fact, we should give the military in Iraq the ability to do a better job protecting the security and infrastructure of the pipeline there. We lose 800,000 barrels a day of oil in Iraq that could be part of helping the Iraqi government get on its feet and the rest of the world energy markets stabilize. But this ANWR measure is holding up a DOD bill instead of giving the military all the resources they need. We are not talking about an oil supply 10 years from now; we are talking about something we should be doing today in terms of securing existing infrastructure. We should strip this ANWR language out and pass this bill.

I understand the Senator from Alaska thinks this ANWR provision is in the interest of some, because I think it is in Alaska's interest. In 2005, petroleum counted for 86 percent of the State of Alaska's general revenues -- 86 percent of their state revenues. In fact, according to a published article, State officials expect that at least until 2013, 74 percent of Alaska’s general purpose revenues will come from oil revenues. So I get why the State of Alaska cares so much. In fact, CBO recently calculated that Alaska will get $5 billion in revenue from this legislation if it is passed. Of course Alaska cares about this. Of course Alaska would hold up the legislative process and keep us here extra days to get this bill passed and get ANWR in by hook or crook, any possible way. Of course they would.

But don't say that this is in the national interest. What is in the national interest of our country is to get over our overdependence on foreign oil. We need to start doing that now, as well as get off of our overdependence on domestic oil and fossil fuels in general. Instead of implementing this Arctic drilling program, we ought to be implementing policies that help us diversify and move forward, so people can have affordable energy rates in this country and not be held hostage by these special interests.

It is another thing to say, somehow, this legislation has arrived here through a clean process. The fact is you would basically have to overrule the Parliamentarian -- which is our judge here. It is basically like going to a Federal court, having a judge rule on something, then when the judge rules on it voting to overturn them, and then a few minutes later reinstating the rule. If that isn't a quick fix around the legislative process here, I don't know what is. But this whole ANWR measure, trying to get it on any piece of legislation that is moving, has been exactly that -- every attempt to make the process go without adhering to the rules.

The fact is this legislation comes to us and basically takes away about seven different laws that would otherwise apply to drilling in the Arctic. It really is -- it is a free ride, a back door that circumvents seven different Federal laws and countless regulations that have been on the books for years. So this is not just passing ANWR; this is basically giving the oil companies a sweetheart deal around Federal laws and regulations that no other company has ever gotten. I guarantee, Scoop Jackson would roll over in his grave. There is no way Scoop Jackson would support drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge when you are overturning a law, the National Environmental Policy Act, that he wrote. So you can mention Scoop Jackson's name a thousand times, there is no way he would support this process.

Did you ever ask yourself why he didn't just authorize it to begin with? I think he knew exactly what he was doing. He wanted further review, and he certainly wanted environmental laws to apply. But, no, this legislation basically overrides the environmental statutes. It creates ill-defined environmental standards. It has a waiver for the lease and sale of land and cuts off the Secretary's ability to protect environmentally sensitive areas, and it allows the Secretary to lease an unlimited amount of coastal plain. It takes a weak reclamation standard and basically hamstrings the Federal agencies that are supposed to do their job when it comes to protecting federal lands.

Maybe it is no surprise that, after trying to stick this on the budget bill, having both Democrats and Republicans in the House defeat it, now there is an effort to try to stick it on the DOD appropriations bill.

In this Senator's opinion, this is nothing more than legislative blackmail, to try to get colleagues to vote for something because it is a must-pass bill. That’s because, in fact, the proponents of this measure know that there is great opposition to this process and to drilling in the Arctic. I know the Senator from Alaska said in the Fairbanks paper that he was not going to hold up the process. But newspapers across the country know exactly what is going on. In fact, the Oregonian just said a few days ago:

"Arctic drilling has been thrown in with the defense bill and the emotionally charged matter of supporting American troops at a time of war. It does not belong there, something that ought to be obvious to all but the most cynical members of Congress."

All but the most cynical Members of Congress should see that this is obvious.

We actually had a letter from military leaders, military leaders in our country, raising the same concern:

...any effort to attach controversial legislative language authorizing drilling to the Defense appropriations conference report will jeopardize Congress' ability to provide our troops and their families the resources they need in a timely fashion.

That is coming from General Zinni and many others who wrote to us saying, don't do this. This is crazy. We want to get about the process of getting a DOD bill passed.

The New Hampshire newspaper said:

He has threatened to attach the provision to the Hurricane Katrina relief bill or to the defense appropriations bill, a cynical ploy.... Trying to attach this, basically, should be rejected. Both approaches should be rejected.

Even my newspaper in Seattle called this, "dubious congressional standards of fair play," because they know that this situation is one in which any legislative rule will be thrown out, just to pass drilling in ANWR.

We know that this issue is not without controversy. We know the oil spills of the past are raising great concerns for people. If they have raised so many great concerns for us, why would we give a blanket pass to drilling in ANWR and overthrow those Federal rules and regulations that apply everywhere else? Why should we go to the extent of trying to attach it to a bill that has to pass, knowing that you are going to ask Members to overrule the Parliamentarian and then, after you basically have tried to overrule him, then go back and say the Parliamentarian was right?

How far are we willing to go? How many rules are we willing to break in this process just to get a small amount of oil 10 years from now?

What the American people want is for us to do our job and send money to the troops and get them home. They do not want to sit and watch us stay here for 3 or 4 more days to continue to complain about this process. What they want us to do is pass legislation that gives the troops the support they need. Let us give the troops the money they need to make sure that 800,000 barrels a day are protected right now. Let’s do a better job of making sure we’re making the right infrastructure investments, which will help everybody. Let’s make sure that gets done.

But this Senator still remains in opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, because you can't tell me that 5,504 spills on an annual basis in the North Slope since 1996 is a good track record. You just can't tell me that all those oil spills in the Prudhoe Bay area and near the Trans-Alaska Pipeline constitute a good enough track record to now say you can open up drilling in an Arctic wildlife refuge and have no impact. Last year, those spills totaled more than 1.9 million gallons of toxic substance, mostly crude oil and diesel.

We know where this is heading. We know where it is heading with no great result for the United States. We are not going to see any oil for a long time. It is a time in which the United States should be making an investment in diversifying off of our dependence on oil instead, and supporting our troops.

This Senator plans to talk a long time about this issue. This Senator knows that we could be going home today, having finished our work, having a session that is ended, having Members back at home talking to their constituents and having the troops realize that we didn't play politics with their legislation.

I hope we will get about doing business here today and closing this legislative session. That’s what we should be doing instead of figuring out what three or four other rules in the process need to be broken just to try to pass ill-conceived legislation that we have been battling over for 25 years. Let us not hold the troops' money hostage. Let's pass this legislation in a clean fashion and get home to our families.

I yield the floor.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.