Cantwell: Battle to Prevent Oil Drilling in ANWR 'Far From Over'

We need a serious national strategy to move us toward energy independence, says Senator Maria Cantell; and drilling in the Arctic is the wrong choice.

Published: 19-Mar-2005

    Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today said the fight to save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling has only begun. While the Senate today rejected on a 49-51 vote Cantwell's amendment to the Senate budget resolution that would have stripped provisions paving the way to Arctic drilling, the next battle will be fought in the Senate Energy Committee.

    "The fight over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is far from over," said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Energy Committee. "We almost stopped this budget trickery on the floor today. But now that the Energy Committee will consider this legislation, I'll be prepared to use every tool at my disposal to stop drilling in the Arctic. We need a serious national strategy to move us toward energy independence."

    "This will be a short-lived vote for those who want to drill in the wildlife refuge," Cantwell added. "As this battle moves to the Energy Committee, defenders of a sensible energy plan for the 21st Century will live to fight another day."

    The Senate Budget Committee included in its version of the Fiscal Year 2006 budget resolution provisions that would pave the way to opening the Arctic for oil drilling. As written, the budget directs the Senate Energy Committee to come up with legislation by June 6 that would produce $2.7 billion in new federal revenue, including $2.5 billion from opening up the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain to oil exploration and development. Special rules that guide consideration of this "budget reconciliation" measure would put drilling in the Artic on the fast-track to Senate approval. Last night on the Senate floor, Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) said the Committee would attempt to report the Arctic drilling measure in the next four weeks.

    "Drilling in the Arctic is the wrong choice," Cantwell said. "But if that's where we're headed in the Energy Committee, then we need to look seriously at a number of issues. If we're going to destroy one of America's last natural treasures for oil, shouldn't we require that that oil be sold in the U.S. rather than exported? If we're going to sell off America's future to the big oil companies, shouldn't' we make sure that our nation's taxpayers get a fair share of the revenues? These are a few of the issues we'll address in the Energy Committee," Cantwell said.

    Recent estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey suggest there are between 3.2 to 5 billion barrels of economically recoverable oil. The U.S. as a whole was on track to use more than 7.4 billion barrels in 2004, or about 20.4 million barrels per day, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA has also estimated that it would take seven to 10 years for oil from the Arctic to reach the market, meaning it would have no effect on today's high gasoline prices.

    "We can't drill our way to energy independence in the Arctic," Cantwell said. "Most Americans agree that drilling in a wildlife refuge - to secure a six month supply of oil a decade from now-just isn't worth it. There are far better options on the table that rely on American ingenuity, strategic investment, and revitalizing existing sources of oil supply."

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