The protection of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is among the highest priorities for the national environmental community. Nowhere else on our continent is the complete range of arctic and sub-arctic landscapes protected in one unbroken chain, and no other conservation area in the circumpolar north has such abundant and diverse wildlife, including rare musk oxen, polar bears, grizzlies, wolves, millions of migratory birds, and more than 120,000 caribou. The refuge’s 1.5 million-acre coastal plain has been called "America’s Serengeti."
Nevertheless, the Bush Administration made drilling in the Arctic Refuge a cornerstone of its national energy strategy. Stalled in the Senate by filibusters, the Administration
and its allies attempted to circumvent normal legislative procedures and smuggle Arctic drilling provisions into budget bills, which have special rules and cannot be filibustered.
The Senate’s fiscal year 2006 budget resolution, for example, included a provision counting revenues from drilling in the refuge.
After an amendment offered by Sen. Maria Cantwell to strip Arctic Refuge drilling language failed (Senate vote 7), the Senate voted to adopt the budget reconciliation package (Senate vote 8), which also contained language opening the refuge to oil and gas development.
Fortunately, a bipartisan coalition in the House forced the removal of Arctic Refuge drilling language in the final budget reconciliation bill. Finally, in a last-ditch attempt, a provision to open the refuge was added to the Defense Appropriations conference report, which included funds for both U.S. troops and hurricane relief. Drilling opponents insisted that the drilling language be removed from the conference report.
On December 21, 2005, the Senate voted 56-44 to end debate on the bill, falling short of the 60 votes necessary to move the bill forward (Senate roll call vote 364). NO is the pro-environment vote. The drilling provision was subsequently dropped, and the revised conference report was then approved by both the House and Senate, leaving the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge intact.