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April 19, 2002

Contact: Carla Klein (573) 815-9250


The Sierra Club today praised Senator Carnahan for providing a big victory to Americans and the environment by rejecting a proposal to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but condemned Senator Bond for failing to listen to the will of the people, instead following the will of the oil industry. The Senate Democratic leadership prevailed in safeguarding this national treasure and native people who depend on it, despite heavy lobbying by the Administration and its allies in the oil industry.

"Today's vote is a big victory for America's environment, and we're thrilled that Senator Carnahan stood up to save the spectacular landscapes of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but deeply disappointed that Senator Bond continued support of needless driling," said Carla Klein of the Sierra Club. "It feels great to have won this vote to protect the Arctic Refuge, but the oil industry isn't finished with its attempt to destroy this natural treasure. The public said they want the Arctic Refuge protected for future generations, and their Senators heard them loud and clear."

"Drilling proponents resorted to a string of desperate schemes to push their proposal through, but the truth prevailed. Drilling the Refuge would do nothing to reduce America’s oil dependence. It would, however, forever destroy a pristine national treasure and the wildlife that depend on it," continued Klein.

While the Senate staved off attempts to include Arctic Refuge drilling in its version of the energy plan, the House version includes a drilling provision; this discrepancy would have to be reconciled in a conference committee. Despite the Senate’s rejection of Arctic Refuge drilling, its energy bill in its current form fails to provide a strong plan for meeting America’s energy needs, and should not be passed unless this problem is fixed.

Arctic drilling will do nothing to deduce our dependence on foreign oil or increase our national security. Government estimates indicate that there is less than a six month supply of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and even the oil industry admits it would take ten years to make it to US markets.

Drilling proponents make a disingenuous claim that only a 2000-acre area will be affected. In reality, oil drilling and production will not be concentrated in one area and if development were to occur, thousands of miles of pipelines and roads, gravel drilling pads and waste pits would sprawl across the entire 1.5 million acre coastal plain.

The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a national treasure-home to polar bears, wolves, and countless migratory birds. The coastal plain is also the birthing grounds for the 129,000-member Porcupine River caribou herd and it is sacred land to the Gwich’in Indians, a native people whose traditional lifestyle depends on the caribou.

"The Senate energy bill began as a promising vehicle for meeting our nation’s energy needs," Pope said. "But polluters have plundered the bill, removing the oil-saving fuel economy measures and weighing it down with giveaways to the energy industry. As it stands now, the Energy bill will do next to nothing to reduce our consumption of foreign oil, to increase our energy security, to protect families from electricity price gouging, or to safeguard our environment. Unless the current bill is fixed, it is unacceptable as energy policy."