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Senate Votes to Protect Arctic from More Drilling

In a hard-won environmental victory for every American who cares about protecting Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Senate voted on December 21, 2005 to reject a plan that would have allowed oil and gas leasing there. Drilling proponents had attached the damaging provision to the massive Defense Appropriations bill -- effectively stalling an important bill to fund our war-time troops by adding the controversial measure. The victory for the Arctic Refuge was won when drilling supporters in the Senate failed to muster the 60 votes necessary to end debate on the legislation. Following the 44-56 vote, the offending provision was removed and the Defense Appropriations bill passed without further delay.

The Arctic Refuge provides crucial habitat for polar bears, wolves, and the Porcupine caribou herd, which travels thousands of miles to raise calves on the rich forage found in the refuge's Coastal Plain. These reindeer-like animals form the basis of the traditional subsistence lifestyle of the native Gwich'in people, who call the Coastal Plain "the place where life begins."

Sen. Stevens' last-ditch attempt to force Arctic drilling through Congress by the end of 2005 failed because enough Senators recognized that it would be a national shame to forever spoil this pristine treasure in a vain attempt to satisfy America's thirst for oil. The government's own studies show the refuge contains less than a year's supply of oil, such a tiny amount it would only reduce gas prices by a penny -- and not until the year 2025.

Despite this important win, renewed efforts by supporters of Big Oil in Congress continue to threaten the sanctity of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Moreover, the Department of Interior is planning to lease areas of the National Petroleum Reserve -- Alaska in an area surrounding the biologically sensitive Teshekpuk Lake. Please join us in our fight to protect the environmentally significant areas on Alaska’s North Slope from the destruction caused by oil and gas exploration and development.