Senate Vote Doesn't End Arctic Fight

Drilling Backers Face Several Higher Hurdles in Near Future, Conservationists Say

(03/16/2005) - WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate's narrow vote today to leave approval for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the larger Budget Resolution is a setback, but just the first round in a long fight, according to Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. 

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"They may have cleared the first hurdle by the skin of their teeth, but this thing isn't over, not by a long shot," Schlickeisen said. "Every step they take from here on out will just get harder. And because drilling supporters had such a tough time with the first move, we're energized to fight that much harder to make sure that, at the end of the day, the American people get their way and the Arctic Refuge remains protected."

The Senate voted 49-51 on Senator Maria Cantwell's (D-Wash.) amendment to strip Arctic Refuge drilling from the budget resolution. With the Senate closely divided on such a high-profile issue, including it in the larger budget resolution could seriously damage the prospects of that bill as it passes through the Senate, the House-Senate conference and final passage in both chambers. Even then, this provision of the budget resolution will not go into effect unless it makes it into the final Budget Reconciliation bill later in the year, which must itself go through the same arduous process as the budget resolution itself. Congress hasn't managed to complete the budget process in the last two years; if that happens again, drilling backers will be back to square one.

"The Senate just decided to make its job on the budget a whole lot harder. This is a tough vote for us to swallow, but the American people have said all along that they're opposed to Arctic Refuge drilling, and Congress is about to find out just how angry they can get," Schlickeisen said. "Shoehorning a controversial measure like Arctic Refuge drilling into the budget where it doesn't belong was a parliamentary stunt to begin with, and it's one that could very well come back to haunt them."

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Defenders of Wildlife is a leading nonprofit conservation organization recognized as one of the nation's most progressive advocates for wildlife and its habitat. With more than 480,000 members and supporters, Defenders of Wildlife is an effective leader on endangered species issues. To stay current on hot topics in wildlife conservation, subscribe to DENlines, Defenders of Wildlife's electronic update and action alert network.



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