January 2005

Protecting Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - The Battle Continues

US Election Day has come and gone and although President Bush will stay in the White House, there will be a different Congress to reckon with in January. The Republican Party has gained seats in both the House and Senate making the caribou calving grounds more threatened than ever before.

Pro-development lawmakers will re-double their legislative efforts to
open the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas development. Still without an energy bill,Congress is likely to make this piece of legislation a top priority. Although earlier versions of the House bill contained a provision for drilling in the Refuge, pro-drilling senators are well aware of the fact that a majority of both Democratic and Republican senators will use a filibuster to stall an energy bill that allows drilling in the Refuge.

The pro-development lobby know that they don’t have the 60 votes
necessary to break a filibuster against drilling in the Refuge. So they may
instead attach a provision for drilling in the Refuge to a budget
reconciliation bill, which cannot be filibustered and needs only 51 votes to pass. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Pete Domenici (R-NM) have already been quoted in the press as pursuing this tactic.

The Alaska Wilderness League recently ordered nearly 2500 copies of the 'Being Caribou' film that will be distributed to their grassroots
network of Arctic Refuge activists. Also all 200 Senators will received hand delivered copies of the film in early January.


March 3, 2004

Lawmakers to keep Arctic drilling out of FY '05 budget

Mary O'Driscoll, Environment & Energy Daily senior reporter

Neither the Senate nor House versions of the FY '05 budget resolution will include a controversial plan to raise revenues from oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"Until we know it's actually doable and passable, at least for now, we don't have it in the savings," House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) told reporters yesterday.

On the Senate side, Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), long an advocate for drilling in the Arctic, said the issue is not yet dead, but he added it would not come up in this Congress.

"That's one of my favorite dreams," he said of including Arctic drilling in the budget resolution. "I dream it will happen, but I don't expect it to."

The decision to keep ANWR oil exploration out of the FY '05 budget comes days after Republicans and Democrats from both the House and the Senate notified budget writers that they would oppose efforts to raise FY '05 revenues through drilling (E&E Daily, March 2, 2004).

Environmentalists said they were pleased with the news. "The budget is going to be so contentious anyway," said Anna Aurilio of Public Citizen.

The congressional budget resolution sets spending caps for the upcoming FY '05 appropriations bills. Budget-writing lawmakers will be working off President Bush's budget request of $818 billion in discretionary spending for FY '05, a plan that squeezes most major environmental and energy programs as part of an overall goal to keep nondefense domestic appropriations during the upcoming budget process to 1 percent growth. Bush's discretionary spending request is up $32 billion from the nearly $786 billion approved in FY '04.

The annual budget resolution, which Congress hopes to complete by the end of this month, limits the amount of money that can be spent by the government and sets the sources of funding for federal programs. The Bush administration's FY '05 federal budget calls for $2.4 billion to be raised in FY '06 from oil leasing in ANWR; the revenue would be evenly split between Alaska and the federal government.

Current law prohibits oil drilling in ANWR. To get around that, an ANWR drilling policy could be "reconciled" in separate legislation if there are instructions to do so in the budget resolution. That would make ANWR drilling language not subject to a filibuster, the Senate procedure that has doomed previous efforts to open up ANWR to oil and gas exploration.

Earlier efforts to use the reconciliation process have failed. For instance, the Senate last year voted 52-48 to strike from its FY '04 budget resolution provisions that would have facilitated passage of ANWR development. That vote came after six GOP senators recorded their opposition to the proposal. It is unclear what the effects will be on a potential Senate vote with five instead of six GOP senators stating their opposition to a potential ANWR provision.

Similar efforts to include ANWR revenue in the budget also have failed in each of the past three years in the House Budget Committee.


February 26, 2004

House Democrats Demand No Arctic Refuge Drilling Be Included in President's Budget

Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts and 121 House Democrats sent a letter today to the leaders of the House Budget Committee urging them to refrain from using the budget process to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. Even though the plan was dropped from the energy bill last year due to strong opposition, the Bush Administration has again included a proposal to drill in the Arctic Refuge in its fiscal year 2005 budget.

"It is preposterous for the President to think he can climb out of his budgetary hole by drilling in the Arctic Refuge," Pelosi said. "The President wants an enormous policy change with devastating environmental ramifications for a small amount of potential revenue. It is shameful, and House Democrats will fight it."

Congressman Markey said: "The President's budget represents wishful thinking rather than economic reality. Oil leasing is not allowed in the Arctic Refuge, and it is irresponsible of the President to count on $1.2 billion in revenues from the sale of leases in that pristine wilderness. The road to America's energy independence does not go through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

The House Democrats wrote in the letter to the Budget Committee leaders: "We strongly urge you to reject any requests to assume revenue from drilling activity in the Arctic Refuge or reconciliation instructions that could facilitate drilling there. Drilling is prohibited under current law and widely opposed throughout America. If the law ever changes, there will be adequate time to incorporate new assumptions regarding federal revenue from this source in subsequent budgets."

To protect the Arctic Refuge, one of the most magnificent and rare unspoiled ecosystems in the world, Congress in 1980 prohibited oil and gas exploration or production on the coastal plain of the refuge. A Democratic amendment to the House energy bill blocking drilling in the Arctic Refuge narrowly failed last year, but the subsequent House-Senate conference report preserved the current protections for the Refuge. A majority of Americans have consistently opposed opening this area for oil exploration.


February 2, 2004

GROUNDHOG DAY – LIKE A BAD DREAM, PRESIDENT INCLUDES ARCTIC REFUGE IN BUDGET AGAIN

The Bush administration said it will push Congress this year to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, and hopes to begin leasing tracts in the area to energy companies in 2006. Even though the Senate has voted many times against giving oil companies access to the refuge, the White House included the drilling plan in its proposed 2005 government budget sent to Congress.

The administration said in its budget that opening the refuge would raise an initial $2.4 billion in leasing fees and half that amount would go toward increased funding for the Energy Department's renewable energy technology research programs over seven years.

“This act only shows how deeply out of touch the President is with current political and economic realities,” said Cindy Shogan, Executive Director of the Alaska Wilderness League. 

When the President laid out similar plans last year, he was decisively defeated. The American people don't want drilling and Congress has rejected this scheme every year since 2001. They know drilling in the Arctic Refuge would ruin one of our last wild places for what the USGS estimates is less oil than the U.S. uses in six months, and it wouldn't get here for ten years or more. That the President would attempt to include this provision in his budget yet again shows the extreme commitment of this administration to the desires of corporate special interests, rather than the will of the American people.

All of America's arctic is now under attack by the Bush administration. Just two weeks ago the Department of the Interior signed away nearly nine million acres of the western arctic and they want to reopen the few protected areas on the North Slope.

What an administration puts in its budget is a clear _expression of its values. Most Americans are not willing to trade off one of America's last wild places, and the wildlife and native people who depend on it, for a few months' worth of oil that wouldn't be available for years. It is impossible to account for the losses suffered by the environment, wildlife and Alaska Natives if drilling is allowed in the Refuge.

“By resounding margins the American people have consistently said No when asked if they support opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.  Congressional conferees, all of them members of the president's party, said No to Arctic drilling in drafting last year's energy bill. Twice in less than two years, the Senate has said No to the drilling proposal, both times by majority bipartisan votes.  What part of No does this administration not understand?” said Adam Kolton, Legislative Director for the National Wildlife Federation.
The bottom line is that this issue has nothing to do with the budget or generating revenues for America – it's all about the oil industry's power and influence inside the White House.


November 2003

The Good, the Bad, and the REALLY Ugly

(otherwise known as the Energy Policy Act of 2003)

Congressional Republicans on Friday finished a draft of a broad energy bill, overcoming several weeks of GOP infighting between House and Senate over tax provisions for ethanol. Overcoming the disagreements allows the full conference committee to see the legislation, many of them for the first time, prior to voting on whether or not to accept the 1700 page document (called the conference report) and send it back to the respective chambers for final passage. The conference report was to be presented to Democrats for review, but is unlikely to be changed significantly given the Republican majority in the House and Senate conference. The full House is scheduled to vote on the final energy conference report as soon as Tuesday with the Senate to follow later in the week. So what is in this massive document, the fruits of two and half years of often rancorous debate and the first attempt in over a decade to revamp the nation’s energy priorities and infrastructure?

Briefly, the GOOD news is that conferees agreed to drop the provision calling for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This is great news! This may be the best part of the energy bill, that Arctic drilling isn't in it. The BAD news is that there are other provisions in the energy bill that are bad for Alaska. The UGLY news is that the energy bill gets really bad when you look at the public lands provisions for the whole country, and not just Alaska. To read the details about the harmful provisions in the energy bill, go to http://www.alaskawild.org/new.html.


October 2003

NEW EIA REPORT REAFFIRMS ARCTIC REFUGE OIL WOULD MAKE LITTLE DENT IN IMPORTS

An updated report on the impact of proposed energy legislation reiterates the minuscule real-world market impact of proposals to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The findings of the report, "Analyses of Selected Provisions of Proposed Energy Legislation: 2003," mirror the findings the agency reported in 2002 to then-Senator Frank Murkowski - not surprising, since the bill's provisions are nearly identical to the language of a bill then under consideration in the Senate. The key findings of the report, released in late September by the federal Energy Information Administration, include:
       
• No oil would flow from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for nearly a decade if drilling were authorized this year, and peak production would not be reached for another eight years after that, with yields diminishing after 2020.

• Oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would have an insignificant impact in world oil supplies; the likely yield would add just 0.7 percent to world oil supplies. One would hardly expect this increase in output - even if not offset by corresponding decreases in production from OPEC - to make any appreciable dent in oil prices.
   
• Arctic Refuge oil would have a minuscule impact on US energy imports, only reducing US imports in 2020 from a projected 62 percent of US consumption to 60 percent.  And that would be the peak impact, since yields would taper off after reaching a peak in 2020.

And according to an October 2 analysis in the industry newsletter
Electricity Daily, the report suggests that the rest of the bill is "pretty
small potatoes" too.  The article's conclusion? "Nothing in the energy legislation now under consideration by a House-Senate conference committee is likely to have much impact on real energy markets."


August 6, 2003

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and GOP Gov. Frank Murkowski said they remain convinced that an energy bill will emerge from a House-Senate conference committee this fall that includes the House provision opening part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. "I really think this is a crisis era for energy pricing and energy policy," said Stevens, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. But Stevens and Murkowski, who were colleagues for years in the Senate until Murkowski left last year to run for governor, did not agree on strategy entirely. At an appearance in Fairbanks, Murkowski predicted there would be no Democratic filibuster of an energy bill with ANWR language because Senate Minority Leader Daschle needs the pro-ethanol provisions of the bill to help him with what is expected to be a tough re-election battle in his native South Dakota. "I don't think you're going to see those high-profile members threaten to filibuster the conference report," Murkowski said. But that talk made Stevens a bit nervous. "I'm not going to talk about the opposition," he said. "They haven't seen our final language, and I think that a lot of people, including the governor, are talking too much about what may happen in conference."


August 1, 2003

In a surprise turn-around, the senate passed last year's Democratic energy bill.  This bill does not open the arctic refuge to drilling, but it starts the conference process.


July 28, 2003

GOP Senators to Push Energy Bill Leaders Threaten to Postpone August Recess Until Legislation Is Passed

By Peter Behr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 28, 2003; Page A19

Senate Republican leaders will try this week to pass a massive energy package sought by President Bush and are threatening to force colleagues to delay a cherished August recess until the work is done.

The legislation attempts to create a winning coalition by appealing to a spectrum of energy interests as broad as the economy itself.

" The main bill should be found acceptable by an overwhelming majority," declared Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, as debate on the bill resumed Thursday. "The idea is, if you want to recess, finish the energy bill."

The legislation would expand nuclear power; support construction of a $20 billion gas pipeline from Alaska; double production of corn-based motor fuel; fund research on cleaner coal, hydrogen fuel cells and high-tech light bulbs; speed up permits for oil and gas drilling; create corridors for new transmission lines; and permit wind farms and coal production on Indian reservations.

A companion tax measure offers $16 billion in subsidies and incentives for energy production and conservation by 2008. The tax benefits would include credits to motorists purchasing hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles and homeowners who buy renewable energy devices such as solar panels and energy-efficient appliances. The Senate is also trying to vote on this measure this week.

But Domenici's consensus may not materialize.

Public attention and political urgency on energy issues have faded since the spring, when U.S. forces were rushing to secure Iraqi oil fields and energy prices vibrated up and down on the war news.

Sharp partisan disputes remain over the choice of drilling for energy in public lands or protecting them.

Presidential campaign issues will surface in this week's debate, with confrontations between White House and Democratic positions on auto fuel economy standards, climate protection, energy conservation and responses to the Enron scandal. A bill this big may collapse of its own weight if too many senators oppose its final provisions or are uneasy about its consequences, Senate strategists say.

" It's wildly optimistic to think that a bill with several hundred amendments could get through the Senate in a week," said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (N.D.), the top Democrat on the Interior Department appropriations subcommittee. "It is certainly important to have an energy bill, but we have to get it right. I know they are impatient, but it has been on the floor only eight days."

But with other controversial congressional measures waiting their turn, this week may be the window for energy legislation this year.

The legislation seeks to speed up the federal permitting for oil and gas drilling, a frequently drawn-out process that energy companies blame for cutting production and environmental groups defend. But many other major provisions would not have a big impact for years.

Attempts to do more with energy policy run into powerful regional, industrial and political interests, said former senator Timothy E. Wirth (D-Colo.), a leader of a foundation-backed energy coalition composed of business, labor and environmental groups.

The oil, utility and transportation industries have strong political support, Wirth said. He added that although the environmental lobby can block opponents' initiatives, it isn't as effective in gaining support for its agenda. "As a consequence," he said, "little progress has been made toward breaking the gridlock."

The House approved an energy bill in April with a 247 to 175 vote in what the president called "a major step forward in the effort to secure our nation's energy future." The final vote came after the Republican majority rejected Democratic amendments to increase energy conservation programs in the bill, reduce subsidies for oil and gas production, and tighten regulations on electricity producers.

Among the failed Democratic initiatives was a proposal to increase the fuel efficiency of sport-utility vehicles by 5 percent by 2010.

The House bill authorizes drilling along the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coast in Alaska. But the Senate has already voted against that initiative.

Even if Domenici brings a bill out of the Senate this week, finding common ground between House and Senate versions later this year would be a tough challenge, members of Congress said. © 2003 The Washington Post Company


July 26, 2003

Senate has a chance to protect Maine's environment

Maine senators working to include measures in the energy bill that would benefit the state's environmental future

Portland Press Herald (Maine) • Editorial

The Senate hopes to finish debate on the omnibus energy bill next week - a massive document. As of last week, the super-sized bill had 269 amendments - and counting - including some from Maine lawmakers who are trying to protect the health of the state's natural resources and its people.

ARCTIC NATIONAL Wildlife Refuge: The Senate - including Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins - rejected a provision to include language in the energy bill that would open up the Alaskan refuge to oil drilling. The House version does include the language, though, and drilling in the refuge remains an energy priority of the White House. The issue, therefore, is far from dead.

Proponents point to the nation's dependence on foreign oil to justify exploration and drilling in the refuge, but the amount of oil retrieved from the refuge wouldn't be significant enough to reduce reliance on imported oil. Some environmental groups estimate the ANWR oil reserves would be used up in months. The environmental and cultural damage inflicted on the area would last far longer.


Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Global warming interferes with Alaska oil drilling

By JEFF NESMITH

COX NEWS SERVICE WASHINGTON -- Global warming, which most climate experts blame mainly on large-scale burning of oil and other fossil fuels, is interfering with efforts in Alaska to discover yet more oil.

The U.S. Department of Energy plans to help oil companies and Alaska officials find a way around the problem.

A state of Alaska rule says heavy exploration equipment can be used on fragile tundra only when the ground is frozen to 12 inches deep and covered by at least 6 inches of snow.

However, because winters in the Arctic are becoming shorter, the number of days the tundra meets those conditions has shrunk from more than 200 in 1970 to only 103 last year, a state document notes.

The Energy Department is providing a $270,000 grant to help determine whether there are ways the equipment can be used even when the tundra is not protected by snow.

In a June 3 news release, the Energy Department did not refer to global warming. Instead, it quoted Mike Smith, the assistant energy secretary for fossil energy, as saying the grant will be combined with $70,000 put up by oil companies to "refine our understanding of the tundra's resistance to disturbances.

" But according to the state's description of the research, the shorter period for frozen tundra "appears consistent with findings of general warming in the Alaska Arctic associated with global climate change."

" It is unlikely that the oil industry can implement successful exploration and development plans with a winter work season consistently less than 120 days," says the Alaska project description. "Therefore, it is imperative that the Alaska Department of Natural Resources develop a new set of criteria that will simultaneously increase the number of days available to companies to conduct exploration and ice road construction in winter while providing equal or greater environmental protection of the tundra."

One of the arguments by those who favor oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is that work there would be conducted only during winter months so that the tundra would be protected.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a vocal opponent of ANWR development, said that "for years, proponents of drilling in the Arctic refuge have unpersuasively argued that by doing all their development during the winter season on ice roads, the impact on the tundra would be negligible."

" Now they admit that they can't afford to drill unless they are allowed to trample the tundra in the non-winter season," he said. "The supreme irony is that the winter season is getting shorter because of a pronounced warming of the climate brought on, in part, by the burning of oil."

Rafe Pomerance, president of Americans for Equitable Climate Solutions, a group that explores climate issues, said the Energy Department grant" validates the fact that Alaska is warming rapidly and that significant damage is occurring."


JULY 2003

SENATE ENERGY BILL ACTUALLY POSSIBLE THIS MONTH

While indications from June were that there would be no Senate Energy bill before the fall, just before their July 4th recess, Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) said: "We will have an energy bill passed before the Senate's month-long recess begins in early August. Of that I have absolutely no doubt."

The exact timing of the Senate bill is still unclear. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist indicated that floor action has been postponed until mid- to late July. The Senate bill faces heated debate over measures related to climate change, automobile fuel economy, financial incentives for an Alaska natural gas pipeline, and a federal electricity grid plan that has enraged Southern and Western lawmakers. Some $15 billion worth of tax incentives are also expected to be inserted in the legislation.

If the Senate bill actually did pass in late July, it would still be at least September before any conference committee could happen to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Among the more contentious differences at that time include provisions in the Senate bill to increase ethanol use and provisions in the House bill to change the law to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Nearly 400 amendments have been proposed in the Senate bill, including 50 to 60 "meaningless" ones likely to be stripped from the debate schedule, Domenici said.

One of the more contentious issues that could possibly stall the Senate’s efforts to pass their energy bill is a plan by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to open the nation's patchwork transmission grid to greater competition.

 

JULY 2003

DISMANTLING OF ALASKA COASTAL MANAGEMENT PROGRAM

Alaska lawmakers have just finished an all-out assault on Alaska’s spectacular coastal areas. Under the guise of “permit streamlining,” the Alaska Legislature and Governor Murkowski have wiped out decades-worth of evolution in Alaska’s coastal management laws and erected barriers to the court system for all but corporate interests. Examples of how the State has gone from “doing it wrong” to “doing it worse” include:

Dismantling of the Alaska Coastal Management Program

Since 1977, the Alaska Coastal Management Program (ACMP) has provided stringent environmental safeguards to protect coastal habitats and subsistence resources from the impacts of development. A unique characteristic of this law was that local communities could, in large part, use it to customize environmentally protective standards for their regions, which forced some of the largest oil companies in the world to be sensitive to local environments.

A new law, passed this year, gutted these protections and will result in weakened protections for fisheries, water quality, estuaries and other fragile coastal habitats. It also weakens the once-strong legal voice of the local communities that know these resources best.

It remains to be seen whether the weakened version of the ACMP will still comply with the federal Coastal Zone Management Act. If it doesn’t, Alaska coastal communities not only will have lost fundamental environmental protections, they will lose millions of dollars in federal funds as well.

Closing the Courthouse Doors to the Public

Not content with wiping out the substance of the ACMP, the Legislature also acceded to the desires of the oil industry to slam courthouse doors to those who would challenge state decisions under the coastal management program. If the state decides, for example, a new tank farm can be built near a coastal wetland without harming coastal habitats, the local coastal district or the builder of the tank farm could challenge the decision in court, but a resident of a nearby village could not.


June 2003

Prudhoe Bay Oil Spill Bigger than Reported By The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE - An oil spill at Prudhoe Bay is about 12 times larger than originally estimated, according to officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

When oil company BP first reported the spill Tuesday, regulators and oil-company workers thought about 500 gallons, or 12 barrels, of oil and other fluids including oily water had spilled from a ruptured pipeline.

The department on Friday revised the spill estimate to 1,500 gallons of crude oil and about 4,500 gallons of "produced water," which flows out of Prudhoe Bay oil wells along with the crude.

As cleanup crews continued work Friday, wells producing up to 10,000 barrels of oil a day remained shut down pending repairs to the buried 24-inch pipeline. The line carried oil from well pads to a nearby processing center where oil, water and other fluids are separated.

The shutdown is interrupting the flow of oil, worth close to $300,000 a day, said Dave MacDowell, a spokesman for BP, which operates the Prudhoe Bay oil field.

He said he didn't know when the wells would begin producing again. "At this point, our focus is on the cleanup," MacDowell said.

Even with the increased estimate, the spill historically doesn't rank as particularly large for the North Slope, said Ed Meggert, the Department of Environmental Conservation's on-scene emergency-response coordinator in Fairbanks.

That the original estimate would change was to be expected, he said. "A lot of the spill was under snow and ice, so the initial estimates were due to go one way or the other," he said.

On the plus side, the area of tundra affected by the spill remains confined to well under an acre, Meggert said. The buried pipe will be unearthed as part of an investigation, BP officials said Friday. Corrosion is the suspected cause, and the oil could have leaked from the pipe slowly, without being noticed, over the winter, Meggert said.

Cleanup workers hope to flush the spill site with warm water and then vacuum the oil to minimize tundra disturbance. No wildlife has been affected, the Department of Environmental Conservation reported.

Senate Delays Energy Bill to Cook Up Another Arctic Scheme

The Senate has put off the timing for final passage of the Energy bill until some time in June after the Memorial Day Recess. Over a hundred amendments remain to be considered. When the bill is taken up again in June, it is likely that it will yet take several weeks before all the amendments are worked through on the floor of the Senate.

In other news, it is apparent now that despite the Senate voting twice in less than a year to oppose drilling in the Arctic Refuge, some Senators are still pushing to have the drilling proposal included in any final bill.

While the House energy bill that passed includes a drilling provision, some Senate leaders have stated repeatedly that they have no intention of including Arctic drilling in their version of the energy bill. If that holds true, House and Senate will meet and work out the differences between the whole bill, including the difference over drilling in the Refuge.

On May 15, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) held a news conference on Capitol Hill to provide an update on the energy plan, released in May 2001.

"We've seen the Senate reaction to a particular proposal on ANWR," Norton said. "I think now we have to look creatively to see if there is some way to craft a proposal that will be one that can be passed by the Senate."

While most of the press conference was talking about the prospects for getting a bill to the President to sign, many of the reporters present asked Arctic specific questions.

"I think any bill that's a step in the right direction is a bill we should send," Barton said, responding to questions about whether it would be worth it to send a bill to the president without an ANWR provision. "The best bill would have ANWR in it and I support ANWR. I think it has a legitimate shot of passage."

Most importantly, after the press conference ended, Barton stayed to take a few more questions, all of them about the Arctic. Barton states that there will be a package with an Arctic compromise. When asked if there are already meetings between the House and Senate to work out such a ploy, Barton said that there are meetings between House Energy and Commerce Chair Billy Tauzin (R-LA), House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL), House Resources Committee Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Senator Craig Thomas specifically on Arctic.

Legislation that goes through a conference committee and has Arctic in it would have to be filibustered in order to prevent drilling when it came back to the Senate for a final vote. Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Domenici had hoped to complete work on the bill before Memorial Day, a schedule most Senate sources and lobbyists long considered far too aggressive. Once consideration of the bill begins in earnest, Democrats still plan on pressing for scores of amendments. Despite Domenici's best efforts, it is considered increasingly unlikely legislation will emerge from the floor this summer, sources said.

Go to http://capwiz.com/awc/issues/alert/?alertid=2175191 to take action.

Refuge and the 108th Congress

On May 8, the Bush administration released a statement asking the Senate to include a provision in the Senate Energy Bill that would include opening the Refuge to drilling. The Senate Energy Bill does not, as it stands, contain any reference to development in the Refuge and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman has said that he doesn’t intend to include Arctic drilling in the Senate Energy Bill as he doesn’t feel it would pass in the Senate. This bill will be discussed over the next few weeks. No amendments have been added to open the Refuge at this time.


May 5, 2003

ANWR Vote Could Be Part Of Debate On Senate Energy Bill

Republicans intend to take another pass at allowing drilling for oil and gas in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) when the Senate takes up omnibus energy legislation this week (May 5), but the issue is not expected to become a major diversion to passing a bill. Floor debate could begin Monday on the bill (S 140) that the Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved April 30. The measure will be merged with a $15.7 billion package (S 597) of energy tax incentives approved by the Finance Committee on April 2. The two bills largely reflect President Bush's energy agenda, except their is no provision for ANWR. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said it is too early to determine how the issue will come up in debate but he indicated it will not be a priority for GOP leaders as they try to pass the energy bill before the Memorial Day holiday. After Republicans failed to round up enough votes for a simple majority vote on ANWR in March, there is little stomach for trying to push a provision through under the threat of a filibuster by opponents.


May 4, 2003

Bah, Wilderness! Reopening A Frontier To Development

By TIMOTHY EGAN

More than a century after historians declared an end to the American Frontier, the Interior Department made a somewhat similar announcement last month, with no fanfare. On a Friday night, just after Congress had left for spring break, the government said it would no longer consider huge swaths of public land to be wilderness.

The administration declared that it would end reviews of Western landholdings for new wilderness protection. As long as the lands had been under consideration for the American wilderness system, they had temporary protection from development.

With a single order, the Bush administration removed more than 200 million acres from further wilderness study, including caribou stamping ground in Alaska, the red rock canyons and mesas of southern Utah, Case Mountain with its sequoia forests in California and a wall of rainbow-colored rock known as Vermillion Basin in Colorado.

By declaring an end to wild land surveys, the administration ruled out protection of these areas as formal wilderness which, by law, are supposed to be places people can visit but not stay. Now, these areas, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, could be opened to mining, drilling, logging or road-building.

The idea of designating an area as wilderness wild land left as is, for its own sake is an American construct. Artists and writers in the mid-19th century led the charge for wilderness, with Henry David Thoreau arguing from his pond-side home in Concord, Mass., that wilderness sanctuaries were a necessary complement to civilization.

In setting aside the first wildlife refuge in 1903, on Pelican Island in Florida, President Theodore Roosevelt protected a patch of America that is now the smallest of the formally protected lands a mere five acres. And since passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, 106 million acres have been given the wild lands designation, with more than half of that total in Alaska.

Over the years, the Bureau of Land Management, the nation's biggest landlord, with 262 million acres under its control, has continued to survey its vast holdings, trying to determine whether more land is suitable for wilderness. But the Bush administration says wilderness reviews should have ended 13 years ago, at the close of a study period mandated by Congress. This interpretation is challenged by conservationists who plan to appeal the Bush order in court.

If the Friday night declaration represents the beginning of a broad new land management policy, the Interior Department has not said so. There was not even an announcement of the end of the wilderness reviews on the department's Web site.

Instead, the change came about in a settlement of a 1996 lawsuit filed by the State of Utah against the Interior Department over a reinventory of three million acres conducted by Bruce Babbitt, the interior secretary at the time. Most of the lawsuit had been dismissed and sat dormant until the state amended its complaint in March.

"This does not mean that someday down the road we may still manage some of these lands as wilderness," said Patricia Lynn Scarlett, an assistant interior secretary.

The move follows a consistent pattern in the president's environmental policy: to change the way the land is managed, without changing the law. Whether the issue is allowing snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park or logging in the Pacific Northwest, the course has been to settle lawsuits by opponents of wild land protection, opening up the areas to wide use, without going to Congress to rewrite the rules.

Oil and gas developers and others point out that the Clinton administration did the same thing making broad changes of policy by administrative order but on behalf of an environmental constituency. In their view, wilderness protection amounts to a land grab, putting potential timber or mining areas off limits. They say citizen groups were abusing the law by bringing land surveys to the government, which then managed the land as de facto wilderness. Leaders of some Western states have long complained that wilderness study essentially eliminates the chance to gain any economic value from the land, money that is needed for state coffers.

To many conservationists, the announcement was more than another setback. Wilderness, in the oft-quoted line of the writer Wallace Stegner, is "the geography of hope." To have that geography capped, they argue, has had the same effect on some outdoor lovers as the fencing of the public range had on open-country cattle ranchers. "They are trying to declare, by fiat, that wilderness does not exist," said Heidi McIntosh of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

The interior secretary, Gale A. Norton, said that the policy reflected the administration's attempt to cooperate with local officials and heed concerns of industries that rely on public lands' resources. "The Department of the Interior believes that we should manage these lands in a way that provides the greatest benefit to the public," Ms. Norton wrote in a letter to Senator Robert F. Bennett, Republican of Utah.

In another letter, Ms. Norton said it seemed senseless to consider declaring any more wilderness areas in Alaska because its elected officials are against expanding this protection. But critics say that in California, a majority of elected officials favor more wilderness. And in New Mexico, Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, has asked the government to prevent drilling in 1.8 million acres of the Otero Mesa, an area that has all the qualities of wilderness.

The New Mexico land is the largest contiguous piece of Chihuahuan Desert grassland left in North America, Governor Richardson said. It may be wild, but for now, it can no longer be Wilderness.


April 28, 2003

Arctic Refuge Under Attack Again!

On Wednesday, April 2, the House Resources Committee in the House of Representatives voted on the Energy Security Act of 2003 and included a large provision for drilling in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Several amendments meant to remove the Arctic drilling provisions from the bill were defeated throughout the course of the day.  The Energy Security Act of 2003 goes in front of the entire House mid next week.

Even though the Senate has indicated quite clearly by their 52-48 vote that drilling in the Arctic Refuge is a dead end for legislation in the Senate, both the House Leadership and the Administration continue to push this issue in the House.  Just days ago, on March 30, Interior Secretary Gail Norton stated, We continue to press about [the Arctic Refuge] because that one small spot is believed to have the ability to produce more oil than the entire state of Texas.  Besides being wrong, Nortons comment reflects the Administrations desire to make an end run around the will of the American people in general and the US Senate in particular.  Immediately after her colleagues in the Senate voted to reject drilling, Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski also stated, The issue is far from being dead or gone; it absolutely is not.  

The fact remains the Senate DID reject drilling with a bi-partisan vote; 8 Republicans, 1 Independent and 43 Democrats voted to remove the drilling proposal.  We need the House of Representatives to follow the Senates strong lead and reject this last-century idea.  No matter how it is disguised, drilling in the Arctic Refuge will always be just a ploy for oil companies to gain access to our public lands for their own private profit.

Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) and Representative Nancy Johnson (R-CT) will offer an amendment next week on the floor of the House to strip out the Arctic drilling provisions.  This is the amendment we need to support!

What you can do:

1.  Write your Representative TODAY and urge them to support the Markey / Johnson amendment to the Energy Security Act of 2003!  Here are some points for your letter:

2.  Call the your Representative and urge them to support the Markey / Johnson amendment to the Energy Security Act of 2003.  To find your Representatives number, please go to http://www.americanwilderness.org/alerts/arctic/hse_phone_report.htm.  You can look up who your Representative is and what their number is at this site.