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The Conservation Alliance led a trip to Washington, D.C., Nov. 8-9 to urge members of Congress to oppose any effort to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“We organized the trip in conjunction with the Alaska Wilderness League (www.alaskawild.org), a recent Conservation Alliance grantee,” said John Sterling, executive director of the Conservation Alliance.
Representatives from the Conservation Alliance, Timberland, Patagonia, Montrail, Zumiez, Kennan Ward Photography and the Anchorage Guest House spent both days meeting with Senate and House offices, explaining that the Arctic Refuge is an important wild place both for its habitat and recreational values. The group focused on the economic benefits of protecting the Arctic Refuge from oil drilling.
Congress continues debating the proposed Arctic drilling as part of its effort to pass a budget for 2006. As many outdoor industry members are aware, pro-drilling members of Congress included a provision to drill in the refuge in both the Senate and House versions of the budget. Last week, the Senate voted 51-48 for a budget that includes the drilling provision. This week, while the industry team was in DC, the House debated a similar proposal.
“We met with offices all day Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Sterling. “As you may have heard, on Wednesday night, the House leadership decided to remove the Arctic drilling provision from its budget bill because 22 moderate Republicans announced that they would join with Democrats and vote against any budget bill that would allow Arctic drilling.”
Though this debate is not yet over, the House move is a huge step toward saving the Arctic Refuge from this current drilling threat. The outdoor industry team met with many of those moderate Republicans, and according to Sterling, each of them appreciated hearing from business leaders that support a protected Arctic Refuge.
“They also said that their phones were ringing off the hook with calls from people opposed to Arctic drilling. One office reported receiving more than 1,600 calls in a matter of days,” said Sterling.
The Arctic drilling proposal is not yet dead, however. If the House manages to pass a budget bill, then the House and Senate will go into conference to develop a final bill that brings the two versions (House and Senate) together. In conference, the committee could decide to include the Arctic drilling provision in the final bill because it was part of the Senate bill. If that happens, then both the House and Senate must pass the revised bill before it becomes law. So, both sides of Congress may have one final opportunity to vote “no” on Arctic drilling.
For more information, or to be put on an “alert list,” send an email to Sterling at