Senate Democrats

SENATORS CALL ON FRIST TO KEEP ARCTIC DRILLING OUT OF BUDGET

Coalition of senators 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), Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and John Kerry (D-MA), and 14 other senators made clear their 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 or another free pass on national environmental laws. American families deserve better. We need real solutions to our energy needs, not rehashed policy that continues our oil addiction and has been opposed by a majority of Americans time and time again. We stopped this shortsighted proposal last year, and I’ll fight for the same result this year.”

“We should not allow another abuse of power by the Republican Congress to force through a special interest drilling provision into our nation’s budget,” said Senate Minority Leader Reid. “Drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge is not a solution to our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, will not make us stronger and does not belong in our nation’s budget. Democrats know that America can do better than an abusive end-run around the rules of the Senate.”

“The Senate remains deeply divided over this issue, and the Budget Committee should not include ANWR in its budget assumptions this year,” said Senator Bingaman, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “Senate Democrats are acutely aware of the nation’s energy needs, and we support energy production where it can be done in an environmentally responsible manner. But most of us do not believe that oil and gas activities can be done in an environmentally responsible manner in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. If the Senate ultimately decides to permit these activities in the Refuge, it should do so under regular order, so that it may give appropriate consideration to amendments and provide for necessary environmental protections.”

“Big oil’s Republican allies are once again trying to hijack the budget to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” said Senator Kerry. “Just how many times will Democrats and many Republicans have to reject this bad idea before real energy security gets addressed in a serious way? ANWR has become the great white whale for some drill-at-all-costs ideologues who refuse to acknowledge we can’t drill our way to energy independence, we have to invent our way there. It’s time to stop wasting the American people’s time with this giveaway to big oil and put some real energy solutions on the table for consideration.”

“By using a budget resolution to open the Arctic Refuge wilderness to oil drilling, the Budget Committee mocks both Americans’ bedrock environmental values and the Senate’s fundamental rules of full and fair debate in a single stroke,” said Senator Lieberman. “That the Republican majority can work its anti-conservation will only by twisting the rules only goes to expose the hollowness of its agenda.”

In a letter Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), the senators underscored their strong opposition to using this year’s budget resolution to authorize drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“We are writing to voice our strong opposition to the inclusion in the Budget Resolution of assumed revenues and a reconciliation instruction 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 this reconciliation instruction.”

Last December, on the floor of the Senate, Cantwell and her colleagues successfully stopped legislation attached to 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, the senators stopped this attempt at legislative blackmail and kept the Senate playing by the rules. The Arctic drilling 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.

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