Arctic Refuge Victory For All Americans

In an against-all-odds victory for wildlife, wild places and all Americans, the Senate today rebuffed attempts to attach controversial provisions to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the Defense spending bill.

“Drilling proponents have pulled out all the stops, and tried every trick in their playbook to open up the Arctic Refuge to no avail,” said Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director. “This is a tremendous victory for all Americans and proof positive that the fate of the Arctic Refuge must be debated on its merits, not as part of a sneak attack.”

Drilling proponents have now failed to include Arctic drilling on energy, budget and defense bills. The deplorable effort to link Arctic drilling to funding for America’s troops and Hurricane Katrina relief, led by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and bolstered by intense lobbying from the Bush administration, failed in a cloture vote 44-56 (cloture requires 60 votes).

“We applaud those Senators who refused to let drilling proponents manipulate them and the democratic process,” said Pope. “Today’s vote reaffirmed the Senate’s role as a deliberative body, not a place where unrelated and controversial issues are tacked on to any bill without debate and at the whim of special interests.”

Senator Stevens — the man who brought us the $450 million “bridges to nowhere” — tried to bully the Senate into passing a bill that benefits his state and the oil industry at the expense of all Americans.

“This year the oil industry squeezed Americans at the gas pump to the tune of billions in record profits, carved out billions more in government subsidies, and then lied to Congress. Senator Stevens held defense spending and hurricane relief hostage to help Big Oil out,” said Pope. “Today the Senate gave the oil industry and Stevens the lump of coal they deserved. We will remain vigilant as those who would plunder the Arctic Refuge for short-term gain are clearly willing to try anything regardless of cost.”

“Americans want real energy solutions that protect special places like the Arctic Refuge. Today that message was heard loud and clear,” said Pope. “Drilling proponents tried every excuse, but Americans know that Arctic drilling would not put a dent in our dependence on foreign oil, would do nothing to strengthen our national security, and would not save consumers money at the pump.”

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s own Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that even 20 years down the road, when Arctic Refuge oil would be at or near peak production, gas prices would only be affected by about a penny per gallon. The United States sits on just 3 % of the world’s known petroleum reserves. Government estimates indicate that there is less than a year’s supply of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and even the oil industry admits it would take 10 years to make it to US markets.

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