April 05,2000

Roth to Offer Amendment to Budget Resolution Tonight to Prevent Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

WASHINGTON -- Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) this evening will introduce an amendment to the Budget Resolution to prevent drilling for oil and gas in the 1.5 million acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Roth's is expected to deliver the following statement upon introduction of his amendment (TEXT EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL DELIVERY):

"I want to commend my colleague, the Senator from New Mexico, for what I consider to be an excellent budget resolution. Over the next five years, the Budget Committee Chairman has protected Social Security, funded our priorities such as Defense and Education, and provided for a $150 billion tax cut -- something I look forward to crafting in the Finance committee.

"However, there is one point at which I respectfully disagree with my distinguished colleague's work. It is in the assumptions of allowing leasing for oil exploration and production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). This budget resolution assumes that $1.2 billion would become available in fiscal year 2005 from the bids for such leases. My amendment would simply remove that assumed revenue from the budget resolution and thereby protect this wilderness area.

"My reason for offering this amendment is based on beauty, not on budgets. I do not want to see us make an irreparable mistake in one of America's remaining natural treasures. We can afford to forgo this momentary revenue, but we can't afford not to protect this Arctic Eden.

"Mr. President, in 1960 President Dwight Eisenhower had the wisdom to set aside a portion of America's Arctic for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations. His Arctic Range protected the highest peaks and glaciers of the Brooks Range, North America's two largest and most northerly alpine lakes, and nearly 200 different wildlife species, including polar bears, grizzlies, wolves, caribou, and millions of migratory birds.

"Eisenhower's Secretary of Interior, Fred Seaton, called the new Arctic Range, 'one of the most magnificent wildlife and wilderness areas in North America.... a wilderness experience not duplicated elsewhere.'

"The Alaskan wilderness area is not only a critical part of our Earth's ecosystem -- the last remaining region where the complete spectrum of arctic and subarctic ecosystems comes together -- but it is a vital part of our national consciousness.

"The Alaskan wilderness is a place of outstanding wildlife, wilderness and recreation, a land dotted by beautiful forests, dramatic peaks and glaciers, gentle foothills and undulating tundra. It is untamed -- rich with caribou, polar bear, grizzly, wolves, musk oxen, Dall sheep, moose, and hundreds of thousands of birds -- snow geese, tundra swans, black brant, and more. Birds from the Arctic Refuge fly to or through every state in the continental U.S. In all, Mr. President, about 200 species use the coastal plain.

"Mr. President, there are parts of this Earth where it is good that man can come only as a visitor. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of those places. These are pristine lands that belong to all of us. And perhaps most importantly, these are the lands that belong to our future.

"In essence what I am asking my colleagues to support is an environmental stewardship that protects our important wilderness areas and precious resources, while carefully and judiciously weighing the short-term desires or our country against its long-term needs.

"Considering the many reasons why protecting this area is so important, I came across the words of the great Western writer, Wallace Stegner. Referring to the land we seek to protect, he wrote that it is "the most splendid part of the American habitat; it is also the most fragile." We cannot enter this land "carrying habits that [are] inappropriate and expectations that [are] surely excessive."

"Mr. President, an industrial zone and wilderness cannot occupy the same space. The simple fact is that no matter how well done, oil exploration and development would have significant and lasting impacts on this environment.

"In closing, I want to remind my colleagues that when the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was formally created under the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, it was to conserve fish and wildlife populations in their natural diversity. Oil development on the coastal plain of the refuge is prohibited without the enactment of legislation authorizing development.

"I hope that we can forever protect the coastal plain from development. It is certainly premature at this time to assume revenue from oil development there.

"I urge my colleagues, to support my amendment and reject the budget resolution's assumptions on oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Let us reconfirm to protect today what can never be regained tomorrow if we make the wrong decision now."