The current U.S. administration and majority leadership are bucking significant congressional opposition in delivering on their pledge to include drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in their energy package. Near the end of February, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) unveiled an omnibus energy bill, S.389, that includes as its core proposal the development of the refuge's 1.5 million-acre coastal plain. As if the energy bill weren't enough, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) has launched H.R. 39, the "Arctic Coastal Plain Domestic Energy Security Act of 2001," which also calls for opening ANWR to oil and gas drilling. The bill has at least 62 co-sponsors, none of whom are from New Jersey, and has been referred to the House Resources Committee.
Countering these actions, on February 28 Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) introduced S.411, "A Bill to Designate a Portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness," which as of March 8 had 25 co-sponsors. Senator Robert Torricelli had signed on but, as of that date, Senator Jon Corzine had not. Concurrently, Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Nancy Johnson (R-CT) introduced H.R. 770, the "Morris K. Udall Arctic Wilderness Act of 2001," in the House and it quickly picked up 130 co-sponsors, including Rep. Rush Holt (Dist.12) and Rep. Chris Smith (Dist. 4), as well as most of the rest of the NJ delegation. The new Representative for Dist. 7, Mike Ferguson, had not yet joined his colleagues in co-sponsorship as of March 8. Both bills were referred immediately to their respective committees.
Environmentalists and others agree that the risks associated with drilling in ANWR far outweigh any real benefits. The Natural Resources Defense Council's analysis shows that opening the coastal plain to oil development would not lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil, lower gasoline prices, or have an impact on the California electric power crisis. The U.S. Geological Survey has concluded that the area likely holds only about 3.2 billion barrels of economically recoverable oil-less than what the nation uses in six months. The coastal plain would contribute less than 1 percent of the oil the U.S. is projected to consume over the next 50 years and it would take at least 10 years for the first oil to arrive at west coast refineries. Furthermore, according to reports from the state of Alaska and Phillips Petroleum and BP, oil production on Alaska's already-developed North Slope is expected to increase.
The ANWR was set aside for protection in 1960 and in 1980 Congress barred development of its coastal plain. Only an act of Congress could reverse that ban. The area is often referred to as the "Serengeti of the North." Under the wilderness designation proposed in S.411 and H.R. 770, the coastal plain would be permanently protected from development.
What you can do: Call, write or e-mail Senators Corzine and Torricelli and urge them to oppose any energy package that includes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Urge Senator Corzine to join Senator Torricelli and the others as a co-sponsor of S.411. If you live in U.S. Congressional District 7, contact Rep. Mike Ferguson and urge him to sign on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 770. Thank Congressmen Holt and Smith for signing on as co-sponsors of H.R. 770. See below for ways to contact your legislators.
For more information on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
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