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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Update - December 21, 2005: Senate blocks Arctic drilling!
From the Natural Resources Defense Council
Millions of Americans spoke and the U.S. Senate listened.

This afternoon the Senate rejected an outrageous attempt by the Republican leadership to attach Arctic Refuge drilling to a "must-pass" defense spending bill. The pro-drilling forces needed 60 votes to break a filibuster of the bill, but they could only muster 56.

Today's showdown was a stinging defeat for those pro-drilling Senators who attempted to hijack the defense bill -- and funding for our troops during wartime -- in order to force their special agenda through Congress.

The Bush White House and its allies in Congress know full well that they can NEVER win a vote by the rules on sacrificing the Arctic Refuge. That's why they've resorted, with increasing desperation, to backdoor maneuvers and abuse of the legislative process like today's shameless ploy to co-opt the defense bill.

As you read this, Senate and House leaders are removing the Arctic drilling provision from the defense bill, and are promising to pass that bill, along with funding for hurricane victims, before the holidays.

Make no mistake: they will come after the Arctic Refuge again next year. But, thanks to you, we will stand stronger than ever in its defense.

Last December, President Bush and Congressional leaders said Big Oil would finally get its way in 2005. But, instead, the tide has turned. A solid majority of Americans now reject the President's drill-it-all mentality and is demanding a new energy policy that will save, not destroy, our natural heritage.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Update - November 10, 2005: House drops Arctic drilling!
From the Natural Resources Defense Council

Fantastic news! Late last night, after months of intense pressure from millions of pro-environment activists like you, the House leadership dropped its plan to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as part of the budget bill.

In the end, they were forced to retreat after some 22 courageous Republican Congressmen stood their ground and promised to vote against their own party's budget if it sacrificed America's greatest wildlife refuge. With every single Democrat also opposing the budget, the leadership blinked.

It was the kind of showdown at high noon that restores one's faith both in democracy and the sanctity of America's natural heritage.

Make no mistake: we must now remain vigilant. Senate and House negotiators could still revive the Arctic drilling provision when they hammer out a final budget measure next month (the Senate version of the budget includes Arctic drilling).

But last night's development is a stunning setback for President Bush, for Congressional leaders, and for the oil lobby -- all of whom vowed that 2005 would be the year they finally pried the Arctic Refuge out of the clenched hands of the American people.

And it is a huge victory for all of us in the environmental community.

Just one year ago, Washington insiders were saying that Arctic drilling was a done deal. President Bush was claiming a post-election mandate to industrialize the Arctic Refuge, and the pro-oil contingent of the Republican Party had just tightened its majority grip on both houses of Congress. You couldn't find a pundit anywhere who would give us a wisp of a chance.

Although this battle may not be over, yesterday was a red letter day for the Arctic Refuge -- the greatest day since it was first protected by Congress 25 years ago -- but it is much more than that, too. It is a triumph for America.

November 9, 2005 was the day that nature prevailed over corporate greed, that beauty triumphed over a dead-end energy plan. It was the day we reminded Washington that preserving wilderness is a core American value -- and that we intend to keep it that way.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Update - March 16, 2005
From the Natural Resources Defense Council

Yesterday we sent an emergency alert asking you to urge your senators to vote to remove language from the budget resolution that would allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. You swamped the Senate with almost 30,000 messages in just a few hours, but we are heartbroken to have to report that, just a few hours ago, the effort to remove the Arctic drilling provision failed by a vote of 49-51.

The following is a statement by NRDC's legislative director Karen Wayland: "Drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge won't make a dent in gas prices at the pump or break our dependence on Middle East oil. This was really a vote for Big Oil, not for the solid majority of Americans who oppose turning America's last great wilderness into a vast, polluted oil field. President Bush and his Senate allies resorted to a sneaky budget maneuver to get their way. Now, Congress is one step closer to trading away an irreplaceable national treasure for a few drops of oil that we wouldn't see for a decade or more. If the oil industry can drill in the Arctic Refuge, then no place, no matter how pristine, will be safe. But there is still have a lot of political tundra to cross before this fight is over. We'll keep battling them every step of the way."

Although this is a hugely discouraging loss for all of us, as Karen notes, the battle is far from over. We'll be in touch very soon to let you know the next time we need you to raise your voice in defense of this national treasure (thankfully, Congress is about to recess for the next two weeks, so we all have time to catch our breaths as we prepare for the next round). Thanks to each and every one of you for your continued help and support in this fight.

Western Arctic Reserve

Update - February 4, 2004
From the Natural Resources Defense Council

In March 2003 we asked you to send comments urging the Bush administration to balance energy development needs with wildlife protection in the 23.5 million acres of the Western Arctic Reserve. More than 9,000 of you responded (thank you!), but on January 22nd Interior Secretary Norton nevertheless signed off on a plan to open almost nine million acres in the region to oil and gas development.

The plan would produce less than six months worth of oil while ruining this incomparable wilderness area that supports hundreds of thousands of caribou, migratory birds and waterfowl, as well as Native Alaskans that depend on the area for subsistence hunting and fishing. NRDC is reviewing the administration's decision and considering options for preventing it from moving forward. Stay tuned.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Update - April 11, 2003
From the Natural Resources Defense Council

The House defeated a series of amendments that would have protected the Arctic Refuge and promoted cleaner, more efficient solutions to the nation's energy challenges. As a result, the final bill passed by the House (by a vote of 247-175) would open the refuge to drilling, give nearly $20 billion in subsidies to the oil, coal and nuclear industries, allow oil and gas exploration on sensitive coastal lands, and raise new nuclear proliferation threats. The Senate will continue work on its version of the energy bill when Congress returns from its 2-week recess on April 28, so we'll be back in touch soon to once again enlist your help in this ongoing battle.

Update - April 2, 2003
From the Wilderness Society

Despite the U.S. Senate's 52-48 bipartisan rejection of an Arctic Refuge oil drilling on March 19, the U.S. House of Representatives continues to push its drilling plans through every available vehicle.The latest attack comes in the House energy bill, which the House Resources Committee will begin debating starting Wednesday, April 2. The measure will probably come to the House floor sometime next week. Among its many damaging provisions, the bill would open the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA), Nancy Johnson (R-CT), and others will offer an amendment on the floor next week to strike the Arctic Refuge provisions. We can't be sure which day the vote will come, but House leaders have vowed to pass an energy bill before they leave for their spring recess April 11. Two years ago, the House narrowly approved an energy bill that would have opened the Arctic to drilling. We expect the vote to be very close this time as well. Drilling proponents are applying heavy pressure on swing members. Conservationists are pushing back just as hard.

Because of the accelerated timetable for this legislation, we urgently need you to call your member of Congress NOW! You can reach your representative through theCapitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. Or send online email message

Update - March 19, 2003

In a defeat for President Bush, the U.S. Senate narrowly voted to maintain a ban on oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-48 against the tactical maneuver that listed the anticipated sale of oil-drilling leases in the Alaskan refuge as a $2 billion revenue-producing component of the fiscal year 2004 budget. Thanks to everyone who helped on this issue!

Update - February 3, 2003
From Friends of Animals (FoA)

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) are leading the fight in the Senate with a promise to filibuster any legislation which would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Incoming Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Sen. Pete Domenici, (R-NM), has told the Wall Street Journal that he endorses the attachment of an Arctic Refuge drilling provision to the budget reconciliation package. This sneaky, back-door strategy represents an attempt to get around the filibuster threat, since only a simple majority is needed to adopt spending and revenue legislation.

In the House of Representatives, Congressperson Ed Markey (D-MA) will reintroduce the Morris K. Udall Wilderness Act on Feb. 12. The Act will designate 1.6 million acres on the Coastal Plain threatened by development as a protected wilderness area. In a letter to his colleagues, Markey stated: "What would we trade for limited -- if any -- oil? We would lose world-class wilderness and wildlife. The Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge stretches from the Beaufort Sea to the Brooks Range and serves as a crucial breeding and migratory habitat for more than 200 species, including polar bears, caribou and more than 160 bird species."

What you can do:

Write to your Senators and Representatives and ask them to reject any legislation which would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. You can also visit our Web site at for the current updates as they are available.

You may write to them at the following address:

The Honorable ---------
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510

The Honorable ---------
United States House of Representatives
Washington DC 20515

Useful Web sites:
To locate your Senator online:
To locate your Representative online:
Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Update - January 17, 2003

The Bush administration today proposed opening up part of the nation's largest remaining block of unprotected public land to oil and gas development. The proposal affects nearly nine million acres of the Alaska North Slope in the government's National Petroleum Reserve.

Home to distinctive wildlife and tundra, the land is near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which the administration still hopes to win the necessary Congressional approval to open up to oil drilling.

Read the draft proposal released by the Bureau of Land Management, which offers four alternatives - including doing nothing.

Update - April 18, 2002
From the Environmental Defense Action Network:

Senate Defeats Effort to Open Arctic Refuge to Oil Companies!

The U.S. Senate rejected an effort by Alaska's Senators and the oil industry to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling. Strong opposition to oil drilling, including messages from over 70,000 Environmental Defense Action Network activists helped sink this effort. This is a big victory for the environment, the wildlife that call the Arctic Refuge home, and for future generations. Congratulations. We DID make a difference!

The bill to open the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling was rejected 46-54. To see how your senators voted, visit:
A "YEA" vote supported oil drilling in the Arctic.
A "NAY" vote opposed oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

**Next Steps**
While the Senate's rejection of oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge is a victory, the House of Representatives passed an energy bill last Fall that would allow oil companies to exploit this majestic wilderness area. The House and Senate may have to reconcile their differences on the issue - stay tuned!

H.R. 39, the Arctic Coastal Plain Domestic Energy Security Act which authorizes the exploration, development, and production of oil and gas resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, passed out of the House Resources Committee on July 17, 2001.

On August 1st and 2nd, the House passed a grossly unbalanced energy bill that would open the refuge to oil and gas drilling, subsidize the worst polluting energy industries to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, despoil public lands and exacerbate global warming.

While most members of Congress are working in a unified and bipartisan manner to enact defense and recovery legislation in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a few are instead using the tragedy as an opportunity to try to push forward narrow and divisive interests. Until yesterday, when the Senate voted to cut off debate, Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) held up a vote on the emergency Defense Authorization bill by filing unrelated amendments that would authorize $38 billion in new spending to benefit the oil, coal, nuclear and auto industries, as well as open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

And after initially stating that using the nation's tragedies as an opportunity to gain passage of controversial energy legislation would be "in poor taste," Sen. Murkowski (R-AK) threatened to stall Senate action if an energy bill isn't brought to the floor imminently.

These senators claim that drilling in the Arctic Refuge is necessary to reduce U.S. dependence on oil imports (the U.S. imports more than 50 percent of its oil). But America cannot drill its way to energy independence. In fact, the government's own estimates show the Arctic Refuge holds just a 6-month supply of oil, which would take 10 years to reach consumers. By contrast, raising automobile fuel efficiency by three miles per gallon would save more oil in a decade than could ever be recovered from the refuge.

Drilling for oil would cause hundreds of miles of roads and pipelines to be built, stream beds mined for gravel, and constant traffic from heavy equipment, all of which will destroy the pristine beauty of this place. The Arctic Refuge is home to polar bears, caribou, and millions of birds that migrate from across the U.S. and beyond. The Arctic Refuge is also the sacred homeland to Native American Gwich'in people, who depend on the land for their survival.