Today, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH) took the unfortunate step of including Arctic Refuge drilling in the 2007 budget bill. On a party line vote, the committee accepted his proposal and defeated an attempt by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) to strip the Arctic Refuge provision. Today's action comes on the heels of the Senate's December vote against drilling in the pristine refuge.
"What the Budget Committee has done shows an astonishing lack of either foresight or hindsight, " said Sarah Wilhoite, Legislative Associate for Earthjustice. "Attempting this budget trickery time and time again is truly absurd. It will be met this year with same result it always meets: steadfast opposition from the American people."
At the end of 2005, Arctic Refuge drilling was successfully kept out of both the final budget reconciliation and defense spending bills. Millions of people called on Congress to oppose these underhanded maneuvers, and their voices were heard loud and clear on Capitol Hill.
"Drilling proponents once again plan to waste time and money on the dead-end strategy of slipping Arctic Refuge drilling into the budget," said Wilhoite. "Last year's decisive defeats proved that America does not want oil rigs despoiling this irreplaceable national treasure."
For nearly 50 years, Americans have spoken out to say that there are some places that should be off limits to oil drilling and industrial development, and the Arctic Refuge is one of them. Drilling in the refuge would cause permanent, irreparable harm to polar bear, caribou, millions of migratory birds, and to the subsistence way of life of the Gwich'in people.
Meanwhile, drilling in the refuge would not solve America's energy problems, or lower anyone's energy bills. The Energy Department's own figures show drilling would save us only about a penny on a gallon of gas — and not for 20 years.
"You'd think Congress would welcome the chance to move on to the work that America wants them to do: finding real, clean energy solutions for our future," said Wilhoite. "Instead, it seems that drilling proponents are stuck in a time warp, doomed to forever repeat the mistakes of the past instead of looking toward the promise of the future."
Sarah Wilhoite, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 216
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.