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Congress Again Poised to Push for Drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
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by Annie Strickler | 2005

Oil industry lobbyists and their friends in Congress have indicated their desire to yet again attempt to move legislation opening the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

Bolstered by the potential of additional votes from new members in both the Senate and House, oil industry lobbyists and their friends in Congress have indicated their desire to yet again attempt to move legislation opening the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling - both through so-called 'energy' legislation and the Federal Budget process. They boast that they will deliver this year, but this flies in the face of strong public sentiment against drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

Protecting the Arctic Wildlife Refuge has long been a top priority for the Sierra Club.  Drilling the Arctic Wildlife Refuge will not help meet America’s energy needs. Instead of ruining lands that have been entrusted to our care, our nation must adopt a 21st Century plan that reduces America’s oil dependence.  The Arctic Wildlife Refuge is too special to sacrifice, and it’s our responsibility to protect this unique place for future generations to explore and enjoy. 

Wildlife and Native Culture Directly Threatened
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain – the area specifically targeted for drilling – harbors an unparalleled diversity of wildlife, and is the only place in North America where the full spectrum of arctic life is protected in one seamless expanse. This thin crescent of land is one of the most important onshore denning areas for polar bears in the United States. Musk ox reintroduced in the wake of over-hunting, have made a comeback on the coastal plain and rely on its resources year-round. Grizzly bears and wolves range the open tundra and Dall sheep thrive in the foothills. More than 130 species of birds rely on the coastal plain for breeding, nesting, and migratory stopovers on trips from as far away as the Baja Peninsula, the Chesapeake Bay and every state in the lower-48.  The coastal plain is also home to the 130,000-member Porcupine River caribou herd which has sustained the Gwich’in Indians of Interior Alaska and northwest Canada. For the Gwich’in, the coastal plain is “the sacred place where life begins,” and integral to their subsistence culture and way of life.

Oil and Wilderness Don’t Mix
Oil drilling in the coastal plain would require 280 miles of pipelines, 50 millions cubic yards of gravel scoured from nearby ponds and rivers, and massive production facilities. Such activities would forever alter and irreparably harm the coastal plain’s spectacular landscapes and the home it provides for polar bear, caribou, wolves and millions of migratory birds.  

At the Prudhoe Bay oil fields, only 60 miles to the west of the coastal plain, the oil industry has dramatically transformed a vast landscape into a massive industrial complex that sprawls over more than 1,000 square miles, and includes nearly 4,000 wells, 170 drill pads, 500 miles of roads and 1,100 miles of pipelines. More than 400 spills occur on the North Slope each year. The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the last stretch of Arctic coastline that remains off-limits by law to the oil industry.

Energy Freedom for America
Oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would ruin one of America’s last unspoiled wild places for what government experts at U.S. Geological Survey say is about six months’ worth of oil that even oil companies concede would not be available for a decade. We need a new energy vision that sets America free from our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels. We can use modern technology to make cars go farther on a gallon of gas, encourage the production and purchase of hybrid cars, develop innovative energy sources and invest in clean, renewable energy.

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would not put a dent in our dependence on foreign oil, would do nothing to strengthen our national security, and would not save consumers a dime at the pump. But the harm to wildlife, the Gwich’ in way of life, and this spectacular wilderness would be permanent and irreparable. Americans deserve a cheaper, cleaner, safer and cleaner energy policy that safeguards our last, best wild places.

Take Action: Arctic Wilderness Bills in Congress
You can help protect America’s Arctic Wildlife Refuge for future generations and end the tug of war over the fate of this special place. Two bills currently before Congress would provide permanent protection for the coastal plain. Both bills enjoy broad, bipartisan support, and enthusiasm for permanently protecting this crown jewel of our natural heritage continues to grow. “We are grateful to these Senators and Representatives today for offering an alternative vision for this majestic landscape and seeking to end the tug of war over its fate,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope when the bills were introduced on February 2.

Please contact your Senators and ask them to co-sponsor Senator Lieberman’s, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Wilderness Act (S.261), and urge your Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 567, the Udall-Eisenhower Wilderness Act.

To call or write Congress:

U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121

Your Representative
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington,DC 20515

Your Senator
U.S. Senate
Washington,DC 20510

Take Action: Keep the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge out of the Budget
In the face of overwhelming public support for protecting this national treasure, drilling proponents will try to attach controversial Arctic drilling provisions to the upcoming FY 2006 Federal Budget bill. Such an attempt to limit public debate and circumvent normal Congressional procedure represents an abuse of the budget process.

Call the brand new ARCTIC ACTION HOTLINE at 1-888-8-WILDAK (1-888-894-5325) which will connect you to the offices of your Congressional delegation. Tell your member of Congress to protect America's national heritage - - keep the Arctic Refuge out of the budget!

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