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Senate Filibuster Blocks ANWR Drilling Scheme - for now PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Wednesday, 21 December 2005 10:19
Senate Filibuster Blocks ANWR Drilling Scheme -  for now

CBC.ca - "As long as there is a Republican majority in the House and in the Senate and as long as George Bush is president, this issue will not go away for us." Chief of the Yukon's Vuntut Gwitchin, Joe Linklater


U.S. Senate blocks drilling in Alaskan wildlife refuge
Last Updated Wed, 21 Dec 2005 17:45:57 EST
CBC News

The U.S. Senate has blocked a measure that would have allowed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

INDEPTH: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush had manoeuvered to open the refuge to drilling by including the motion in a wartime defence spending bill.

But Democratic senators, backed by some Republicans, threatened to filibuster the defence bill over the drilling issue.

In a Senate vote on Wednesday , the Republicans fell four votes short of the 60 votes they needed to avoid the filibuster.

Senate leaders were expected to withdraw the legislation so the oil drilling measure could be removed and put to a separate vote.

Opponents of the drilling fear it will damage the fragile ecosystem in the refuge, which consists of an area about the size of New Brunswick in the northeast corner of Alaska along the Yukon border.

It's an important refuge that shelters caribou and migratory birds in the summer and becomes a polar bear nursery in the winter.

Critics are particularly concerned that exploration and oil production along the coastal range of the refuge will disrupt the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd, which migrates between Yukon and Alaska.

The Gwitchin people of Yukon and Alaska rely on the 150,000-strong herd for their food and culture.

The chief of the Yukon's Vuntut Gwitchin, Joe Linklater, said he was relieved by the Senate vote but warned the fight was far from over.

"As long as there is a Republican majority in the House and in the Senate and as long as George Bush is president, this issue will not go away for us," he said.

Critic denounces 'bait-and-switch' bill

The debate over the oil drilling, which has been going on for years, had became so fierce that senators delayed their Christmas break largely because of the issue.

Critics accused the Republicans of being underhanded for tucking the drilling approvals into an omnibus defence bill, which also includes billions of dollars for hurricane Katrina relief and billions more in home heating subsidies for the poor.

"This is one of the biggest bait-and-switch deals we've seen on the floor of the United States Senate," Sen. Richard Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, said before the vote. "Enough is enough."

Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens, a Republican who has been battling for 25 years to win approval for the drilling, denied the accusation.

"Oil is related to national security," he said. "This is an amendment to pursue domestic production of oil, without which we will be in great difficulty."

Refuge thought to top billions of barrels of oil

Experts estimate that one million barrels of oil a day could be drawn from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

U.S. government geologists have estimated there could be 10.4 billion barrels in the reserve's coastal plain alone ? the equivalent of more than 20 years of oil imports to the United States from the Middle East, at the current rate.

Supporters of the drilling argue that modern techniques allow the industry to extract oil without damaging the fragile ecosystem.

But the Democrats and some Republicans have argued that tougher energy-conservation measures could free up the same amount.

The battle over whether to allow oil drilling in the refuge has been going on for decades.

In one of the most recent skirmishes, another attempt to get drilling allowed in the refuge through a budget bill failed in November.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 December 2005 10:19

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