Arctic Refuge Protected -- for Now
The House Rules Committee removed the Arctic Refuge from the House Reconciliation bill late last night. "The people of the Gwich'in Nation are very thankful that the Arctic Refuge drilling provisions have been taken out of the House Reconciliation Bill," stated Sarah James, Gwich'in Steering Committee board member from Arctic Village, Alaska. James has been holding a vigil to protect the calving and nursery grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd near Capitol Hill since mid-August. She cautions, "The battle is not over! The pro-drilling folks will try every trick to keep drilling in the bill in the conference committee."
It is expected that the house will vote on a smaller version of the bill today and then move to conference with the Senate, which passed a budget including revenue from leasing in the Arctic Refuge last week. The timing of the conference committee is difficult to gauge and is dependent upon the activities of the House.
"We sincerely believe that there is strong bipartisan support from those who believe that Arctic Refuge drilling does not belong in the budget bill and will stand by their principles until there is an absolute guarantee that the Arctic Refuge is completely taken out of the budget. The Bush Administration and pro-drilling advocates in Congress still want to utilize the budget process in an unfair push for drilling in the Arctic Refuge." Said Luci Beach, Executive Director, Gwich'in Steering Committee.
The culture of the Gwich'in is strongly connected to the Porcupine Caribou Herd. Gwich'in communities are strategically located along the migration route of the caribou. The coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge is the primary birthplace and nursery of the Porcupine Caribou Herd where 40-50,000 caribou calves are born.
Chief Joe Linklater, Old Crow, Yukon Territory stated, "Any type of development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will have an adverse effect on the human rights of the Gwich'in to maintain our way of life and the sustenance we have relied on since time immemorial. The United States must maintain their commitment to protect the human rights of the Gwich'in."
Beach summed up the situation, "We are not in the clear yet. While the House made a very strong and positive move last night, once the House Budget Reconciliation bill is passed, it will go to a conference committee with the Senate bill. The Senate bill has the Arctic drilling provision still in it, and several Senators, Alaska's Ted Stevens among them, have said that they intend to put the Arctic provision back into the final version of the bill. Members of Congress who have fought to protect the Refuge must be commended for doing a tremendous job in getting us this far, and we need to also remain vigilant and not let down our guard until the entire process is over. We will continue to urge those who are working diligently to protect the Refuge to stay strong and to vote against any final reconciliation bill that allows drilling in the Sacred Place Where Life Begins, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."
About Oil on Ice
OIL ON ICE (www.oilonice.org) is a multi-faceted media project about the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and the conflict over drilling for oil there. The one-hour
documentary film, WebDVD and Website examine the battle over one of America’s last great
wild places, which is currently at the center of a national energy debate. OIL ON ICE shows
how the fate of the refuge is inextricably linked to decisions our nation makes about energy
policy, transportation choices, and other seemingly unrelated matters. And as the film concludes,
the culture and livelihood of the native Gwich’in Indians and the survival of migratory wildlife
are caught in the balance.