Statement on Arctic Refuge and the House Budget Resolution

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Statement of Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife

(03/13/2003) - Early this morning the House Budget Committee approved a Budget Resolution that, while not explicitly assuming that the House Resources Committee would propose adding revenues from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, opens the door for the Committee to do just that.    It does this by including a $1.1 billion budget reconciliation instruction to the Resources Committee.  There are options within the jurisdiction of the Resources Committee for meeting this number through other alternatives, and those who care about our environment must hope that the Committee chooses them.  But the support for drilling evidenced by yesterday’s Resources Committee hearing on the subject – a hearing conducted before the Budget Committee’s action – leaves little doubt how the Committee’s leadership intends to respond to the reconciliation instruction.  In addition, the House leadership has repeatedly pushed efforts to drill in the Arctic Refuge and it is apparent that they are using the budget process in a perverse backdoor effort to assure that Members of the House never have to cast an up or down vote to destroy one of the nation’s most important natural treasures.  

Last year a bipartisan majority in the Senate strongly rejected Arctic drilling in an up or down vote.  This bipartisan consensus reflects the will of the vast majority of the American people.  The public clearly recognizes that drilling in one of our nation’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries for six months’ worth of oil that will not be available for 10 years is simply not worth it.

Defenders is pleased that the House Budget Resolution does not require the Resources Committee to authorize drilling in the Arctic Refuge, but we are dismayed that they have opened the door so widely as to invite that outcome.  The House Budget Resolution dramatically increases the chances that the House will enact legislation to allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge without Members of the House ever having to cast an unpopular vote to do so.   Drilling in the Arctic Refuge has nothing to do with the federal budget and everything to do with the influence of the oil lobby in Congress.   It is time for the American people and their representatives in the House to reject the House leadership’s plan to create a procedural straightjacket designed to thwart the will of the American people and facilitate the destruction of one of our nation’s greatest natural treasures.

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Contact(s):

Robert Dewey, (202) 772-9400 x228

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