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Debate: Oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

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Should the United States Congress allow drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?

Background and context

In 1960, Secretary of Interior Fred Seaton of the Eisenhower Administration designated 8.9 million acres of coastal plain and mountains of northeast Alaska as the Arctic National Wildlife Range to protect its "unique wildlife, wilderness and recreation values." After the discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay in 1968, pressure mounted to explore for oil in the ANWR.
The issue was heavily debated for years in Congress, which culminated in the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA-1980). In Section 1003 of ANILCA, Congress stated that the "production of oil and gas from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is prohibited and no leasing or other development leading to production of oil and gas from the [Refuge] shall be undertaken until authorized by an act of Congress."[1]

Since taking office in 2001, the Bush administration pushed for the opening of the ANWR to exploration and drilling and renewed debate in Congress on the issue.[2] Some legislative events have taken place that made drilling more likely. On March 16, 2005, for instance, the Senate endorsed oil-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge through a vote of 51 to 49 for a budget resolution that assumes revenues of roughly $5 billion from drilling fees over the next decade, with the federal government and the state of Alaska to split the money. The Seattle PI wrote, "the [Senate] vote was a major victory for President Bush and his supporters in business and elsewhere who had long advocated drilling in ANWR as a way to ease the nation's dependence on foreign supplies...Until yesterday, the politics were never good enough to push the bill into law. In some years Democrats successfully blocked ANWR provisions on the Senate floor. In 1996, both the House and Senate approved opening ANWR only to see President Clinton veto it." Following this, the only measure necessary for drilling to actually take place has been a House and Senate bill that would explicitly open the ANWR to drilling. The Democratic victory in the November 2006 elections, however, may have made this legislative step less likely as the Democrats primarily oppose drilling. The opposition within the Democratic Party, on the other hand, is not a overwhelming majority, and the pro-drilling camp remains very strong in both the Senate and House. The complexity of the issue appears to make the issue less partisan than might be expected of an issue that ostensibly pits corporate and national security interests against environmental concerns.[3]

Contents

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Environment: Would the environmental impact of drilling be small?

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Yes

  • Drilling would only be done in the winter months. ANWR.org - "Drilling activity in ANWR would be limited to winter months when wildlife does not frequent the coastal plain" -
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No

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Economics: Would drilling in ANWR stimulate the US economy?

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Yes

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No

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Oil dependence: Would drilling in the ANWR reduce US oil dependence significantly?

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Yes

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No

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Alaskans: Do native Alaskans and Native American Alaskans support the proposed drilling for economic and other reasons?

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Yes

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No

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American public: Where does the American public stand?

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Yes

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No

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US government: Where does the American government stand?

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Yes

Republican leaders have generally been more supportive of drilling in the ANWR.

The Bush administration has made drilling in the ANWR a major part of his energy policy since 2002.[4]

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne has been very vocal in support of drilling.[5]

The House of Representatives: According to ANWR.org, House approval of HR 5429 in May of 2006 was the tenth time that the Republican led House has approved drilling in the ANWR.[6] The American-Made Energy and Good Jobs Act, authorizing drilling, was passed by a margin of 225 to 201. See the full voting record of House Reps

  • Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) introduced the "American Made Energy Freedom Act" (HR- 5890) to Congress in July, 2006 targeting the opening of the 10-02 Area Coastal Plain of ANWR.[7]
  • Chairman of the House Resources Committee Richard Pombo authored H.R. 5429 (May, 2006), the "American-Made Energy and Good Jobs Act" that called for opening the ANWR.[8]
  • Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Florida has been a vocal proponent of drilling saying, according to CNN 2002, "that the threat to the environment has been overstated, noting that the drilling would take place on only a fraction of the refuge, which is the size of South Carolina. He likened the area to a 'frozen desert with few signs of life' instead of an 'ecological wonderland.'"[9]

The Senate and its key supporters of drilling: The Senate voted on March 16, 2005 to approve drilling in the ANWR by a margin of 51 to 49.[10]

  • Alaska's Republican senators, Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, have "led efforts"[11] to open the ANWR for drilling. Stevens, who has fought for 25 years to open ANWR to drilling. Stevens "has fought for 25 years to open ANWR to drilling."[12]
  • Bill Frist voted "NO" on removing consideration of drilling ANWR from budget bill (Mar 2003) and "YES" on drilling ANWR on national security grounds (Apr 2002).[13]
  • Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. He has said it is one of the four most important actions the United States needs to move on.[14] He stated in July, 2006 that "Opening ANWR is the most meaningful thing Congress can do for domestic oil production. I will continue to work hard in the coming months to ensure the domestic security of this nation by taking up ANWR legislation as soon as possible".

The Alaskan all-republican delegates in Congress favor drilling.[15] This inlcudes Alaska's Republican Sens. Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens.

Department of the Interior, see "Environmentally Responsible Energy Production in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge"

Proposed development may need to be spread out, but drilling can be made seasonal to avoid disruptions to animal migration. Caribou herds move into ANWR during specific and predictable times, thus drilling can be scheduled, which would reduce the impact of human activity.


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No

Vocal Democrats on the Issue: - 57% of Democrats oppose allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, according to February, 2006 poll data.[16]

  • Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), has "led the opposition" to drilling in the Senate, according to the Seattle PI.[17] Sparring with Alaska's Senator Stevens, Cantwell said in March 2005, "We can't drill our way to energy independence in the Arctic. ... 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."[18]She introduced legislation in 2005 to strip oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) from the Senate reconciliation bill - a budget budget trimming bill.[19]
  • U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman introduced legislation in 2003 to designate the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's coastal plain as official federal wilderness and permanently make the area off-limits to drilling.[20]
  • Hilary Clinton voted "no" on drilling in ANWR in Apr 2002, and "yes" on removing consideration for drilling from the budget bill in Mar 2003.[21]
  • Ted Kennedy voted "YES" on removing consideration of drilling ANWR from budget bill (Mar 2003) and "NO" on drilling ANWR on national security grounds (Apr 2002)[22]
  • John Kerry: Outside Online - "In the February 2005 issue of Outside, Senator John Kerry argues that oil development in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would bring irreparable harm to a uniquely American treasure."

Republican Opponents of Drilling:

Proposed “limited development” will still intrude hundreds of miles into pristine areas. Alaska doesn’t have a major reserve under ANWR; rather ANWR contains several reserves. Thus, even with “minimal” development, the damage would cover thousands of acres.


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Activist organizations: Where do the other key players and organizations stand?

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Yes

Think-Tanks and Policy Institues:

Advocacy and Interest Groups:

"National Organizations Rally for ANWR" - From ANWR.org - "Competitive Enterprise Institute along with a vast array of national organizations including among others, the US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, the National Grange and 60 Plus seniors group released a joint letter to House and Senate leadership encouraging their support of opening the 10-02 Area of ANWR to energy exploration."

Positions of Major, Relavant Companies:

  • BP Oil[citation needed]
  • The Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC), which was formed as part of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and owns 92,000 acres (370 km²) of subsurface mineral rights in ANWR, is in favor of drilling.


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No

Interest and Activist Groups:


Companies opposing or no-longer advocating drilling: Seattle PI 3/17/05 - "Another question is how eager oil companies will be to try their luck in ANWR. BP, ConocoPhillips and ChevronTexaco have withdrawn from Arctic Power, the business coalition formed to lobby for drilling in ANWR. Among big oil companies, only ExxonMobil Corp. remains."


See also

External links and resources

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