A Battle Won


While national attention has been distracted by the war in Iraq, a bigger battle has been taking place. Terrorism is a horrible thing and genocide and war horrendous, but there is something worse as you will see in this message.

The battle against pollution and a need to protect our environment overrides all our physical needs. When our forests have all been logged, all our air polluted and our water turned to waste, we'll see that we cannot eat money and we cannot drink oil!

It was an enormous victory for our children and grandchildren when the Senate voted overwhelmingly to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Yet some elements of our government do not want to accept this voice of the people and the current administration tried a tricky back door approach to getting the drilling started. In simple terms, they tacked an estimated $1.137 billion dollars from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge onto President Bush's energy package budget bill. If passed this law would imply that the nation agrees to drilling in this refuge because we agree to needing the money from the drilling. For a deeper explanation of what happened see below.

This was so important to the administration that Alaska's Republican Senator Stevens, who heads the Senate Appropriations Committee said before the vote, "if you vote against this, you vote against me and I will not forget it." This was a warning to coerce senators with the threat that if they did not vote for drilling in the Arctic their future pet projects would be killed.

Despite this threat, for the second time in less than a year, the U.S. Senate listened to the American people and voted to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling. The message from the Senate is clear: Oil rigs do not belong in the Arctic Refuge.

Regretfully we probably have not seen the end of efforts to allow oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge, even though the vote sends a strong message to Congress that the American people are not willing to sacrifice this spectacular natural treasure for a few months worth of oil.

This victory could not have happened without the support and help of the National Wildlife Federation.They have a special office in Washington to watch for such trickery so they can warn their 4,000,000 plus members and urge them to contact their representatives. They lobbied and urged their members to contact their Senators to defeat this underhanded attempt to bring drilling to this Arctic reserve

NWF says that the importance of this second victory cannot be understated. Drillingin the Arctic refuge would have set a dangerous precedent, that even the nation's crown jewel wildlife areas are not safe from sprawling oil/mineral exploitation. Highlighting the government's own survey that drilling in ANWR would have had a minuscule impact on the nation'senergy supply many Senators echoed statements made by NWF that this was a bad policy and that the Arctic is too wild to waste.

NWF has an Arctic Refuge Team who keep watch for attempts to bring drilling into the area through the back door. They ask that we all please take a few moments to thank our senators if they voted to protect the Arctic Refuge. You can send a "thank you" email and find out how your senators voted by going to http://action.nwf.org/campaign/arcticrefuge03192003.

You can also call NWF's toll-free Arctic Action Hotline (1-877-703-9491), which allows you to call or fax your senators at the touch of a button. This free service is available 24-hours a days, seven days a week.

If anyone ever wants to donate to support the NWF they can go to the NWF home page http://www.nwf.org/ and look for the 'donate' option which will take them to the following page: http://www.nwf.org/support/index.cfm?websrc=footer-nav

There are many levels and ways you can donate. If you want to donate over $500, please let me know and I'll make sure that NWF is aware so you get some special attention and thanks.

Until next message, let's all work hard to make this world remain a great place to be.

Gary

Legislative Update

Last week, the House and Senate Budget Committees held back-to-back votes on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge this week. Both amendments offered by drilling opponents failed basically on a party line vote.

In the House, the Budget bill included vague language instructing the Resources Committee to find $1.137 billion in the next ten years. There was no specific mention of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the language, but it closely resembles the 1.2 billion the Administration requested for the Arctic Refuge. The House Budget Committee then met on Wednesday, March 12. This was an all day session where countless amendments were offered. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) offered an amendment that would limit the instructions to the Resources Committee to not include Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) land including the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge. This vote failed mostly on a party line vote. Representative Chet Edwards (D-TX) was the lone Democrat to vote against the amendment.

In the Senate, there was specific Arctic language included in the Budget bill. The Senate Budget Committee met for an all day session on Thursday, March 13. Late in the day, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) offered an amendment to strike the provisions dealing with the Arctic Refuge. This amendment received approximately two minutes of debate, with Senator Feingold speaking strictly on process and the fact that this is not the correct vehicle. On the other hand, Chairman Nickles spoke strictly on revenue saying how much revenue drilling will bring in. About an hour later, the vote went down party lines and Feingold's amendment lost 12-11, pretty much as we expected.

Earlier, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) offered an amendment to strike all resolution instructions, which failed. Having lost on that, it apparently cleared Byrd to support the Feingold amendment.

Both bills have moved to the floor of their respective chambers. This is where the fight will continue.

Votes on the Senate Bill occurred on Wednesday. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Lincoln Chaffe (R-RI) introduced the amendment to strike the Arctic Refuge language from the Senate Budget Resolution. Despite Senator Stevens efforts to sway members, 52 Senators including eight Republicans voted to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, by passing the Boxer-Chafee amendment. The eight moderate Republicans were: Lincoln Chaffe (R-RI), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Gordon Smith (R-OR), John McCain (R-AZ), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL).

Additionally last week, Jamie Rappaport Clark appeared before the House Committee on Resources to testify on H.R. 39, the Arctic Coastal Plain Domestic Energy Security Act of 2003. Again, this legislation will open the Arctic Refuge for drilling. Jamie did a outstanding job outlining the wildlife values of the refuge.

This committee meeting started a bit unusual for Resources Committee legislative hearings. All of the witnesses were sworn in. During questioning, it became evident why the witnesses were sworn in. In Jamie's testimony, there is a 1987 report cited that claims that "development [in the Arctic Refuge] would have a "major" impact on the Porcupine caribou herd." In fact, the report states that it "could" have a "major impact. Chairman Pombo unsuccessfully tried to discredit Jamie's testimony on a definition fight between "would" versus "could." Jamie and Peter Van Tuyn with Trustees for Alaska did a great job highlighting the Refuge and the countless reasons this bill is a terrible idea.

People are asked to continue call or fax a letter to their congressional delegations opposing Arctic drilling and support amendments to strike the Arctic provisions from the federal Budget. They are also encouraged to forward NWF's new toll-free Arctic Action Hotline 1-877-703-9491 to their e-mail alert.


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