Tuesday, March 14, 2006

ANWR Update - If at First You Don't Succeed ... They're at it AGAIN!

Clearly, the pro-drilling advocates are firm believers in the maxim, 'if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.' Language that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas exploration has found its way into yet another piece of legislature - this time, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 Budget Bill.

Last Friday, the Senate Budget Committee under Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH) voted 11-9 to include ANWR legislation in the FY 2007 Budget mark-up. Senator Dominici (R-NM) and Senator Stevens (R-AK) drafted language for Chairman Gregg to include $3 billion in revenue from ANWR lease sales in the national budget between 2007-2011, according to ANWR.org. President Bush's proposed ’07 Budget, includes $7 billion in ANWR lease revenues within the first 5 years.

The Senate is schedule to hear vote on the 07 Budget on Wednesday, so little time remains to act, once again, to oppose drilling in ANWR.

The ANWR language was attached to the Budget Bill because budgets are immune to filibuster. That means that only a simple majority is necessary to pass the budget and the ANWR drilling language along with it, rather than the 60 votes required to overcome a threatened filibuster.

Sen. Stevens and his pro-drilling cohorts attempted to include ANWR language in the '06 Budget Bill last year, but their attempts failed when moderate Republicans aligned with most of the Senate Democrats to oppose the bill while it included the ANWR language [see previous post and many more linked from that post].

Undaunted, Stevens attempted to slip his ANWR language through with the Defense spending bill in December hoping that the must-pass bill and the impending holiday recess would rush the Senate into passing his legislation [see previous post]. This attempt failed as well when Senate Republican leadership were unable to secure the 60 votes necessary to avoid filibuster.

This time though, they may have a better chance at it. As ANWR.org reports:

"Comments from politicians in the last few weeks have indicated that ANWR legislation will have a much easier time in the budget reconciliation process if not bogged down by other controversial issues and be able to be listed as a stand alone measure. Last year's removal of ANWR language in the '06 Budget was blamed on conflict with too many other controversial issues such as Medicaid and Katrina relief."
Still, Senate Democrats have vowed to once again oppose drilling in ANWR. As Planet Ark reports, no matter how much revenue ANWR leases generate (be it $3 billion or $7), "most Senate and House Democrats are against opening the refuge to oil companies."

All nine Democratic members of the Senate Budget panel wrote a letter to Budget Committee's Republican chairman, Sen. Gregg, making their opposition clear and saying, "It is irresponsible to base the country's budget on highly speculative and dubious projections of lease revenues for the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

"We encourage you to reject any requests that are intended to misuse the budget process to open the refuge to oil and gas drilling and exploration," the Democratic lawmakers said.

And the Democracts aren't alone in their opposition. Last week, 24 House Republicans sent a letter to Republican Rep. Jim Nussle, the chairman of the House Budget Committee chairman, urging him to keep Arctic refuge drilling out of the 2007 budget bill, Planet Ark reports.

Wednesday's vote will be the beginning of a long process. Last year, pro-drilling factions waited until the budget reconciliation process to attach drilling language. That started in late October and the battle over ANWR and the budget lasted through to December.

Still, let's nip this one in the bud and make sure that the Senate strikes the ANWR langauge this Wednesday. Act now to oppose ANWR one more time! Write or call your senators. If the pro-drilling faction is relentless, our opposition to their repeated efforts must be relentless as well.

In light of last week's oil spill at Prudhoe Bay, the North Slope's largest ever, it is clear that drililng in ANWR will not have the light environmental footprint that drilling proponents claim. And if America is addicted to oil, drilling in ANWR is not where we want to be headed!

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