Wildcats to ANWR
Senate to Vote on Drilling in Wildlife Refuge
C. L. Cook
December 20, 2005
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin released a statement on the U.S. House of Representative's decision to honour a 1987 agreement with Canada to protect Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the essential habitat of the Porcupine Caribou, the last of North America's great migrating herds and sustenance for the Gwich'in peoples of Yukon and Alaska:
"I am very encouraged that the House of Representatives yesterday decided to drop the Arctic Refuge drilling provision from their budget bill. This is an important step forward in the protection of the Refuge, the Gwich'in people and the Porcupine Caribou Herd. I am proud of the persistent efforts of Environment Minister Stéphane Dion, environmentalists David Suzuki and Elizabeth May and so many others."
"However, a number of hurdles still remain and Canada cannot relax until the final votes are cast. We will continue to work with our U.S. allies to ensure the Refuge and the Porcupine Caribou Herd remain protected."
That was in November, and barely a month later, Martin's caution has proven prophetic. Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the controversial oil exploration provision, in the form of a rider attached to a massive 453 billion dollar defence appropriations bill for the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Canadian reactions was swift; a spokesperson for Canadian Ambassador, Frank McKenna said Canada is: "active on this." He hopes to find support in the U.S. Senate in a final effort to kill the bill. The defence appropriations bill sailed through the House of Representatives 308-106, though previous attempts to push it through have all been shot down.
Republican Representative Mark Kennedy, who says he's consistently opposed the move explained his pro-vote, saying: "[I]t would be the height of irresponsibility to vote against a bill that funds our troops and our military while our nation is at war."
A spokesperson for Alaskan Senator Ted Steven, chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee who had vowed to make drilling in the ANWR, his long-time hobby horse, a reality before Christmas, dismissed Canadian objections, saying: "He understands and appreciates Canada's concern but believes there are enough environmental precautions."
The ANWR consists of a 600,000-hectare refuge. Proponents of drilling say the estimated oil reserves would help make America less dependent on imported oil.
Chris Cook is a contributing editor to PEJ News. He also hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check out the GR Blog here.
Stay informed. Subscribe and get the best of PEJ News by email. Free.