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.”
The Bush Administration made drilling in the Arctic Refuge a cornerstone of its national energy strategy, which reached its final form in H.R. 6, the House energy bill. On April 20, 2005, Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) and Congresswoman Nancy Johnson (R-CT) offered an amendment to strike the Arctic drilling provision from the bill (House Amendment 72). The amendment failed by a 200-231 vote (House vote 10).
In a related development, the budget resolution conference report contained instructions to open the refuge to oil and gas leasing and development. On April 28, 2005, the House
voted to adopt the resolution by a 214-211 vote (House vote 11).
Although the Senate then passed a budget reconciliation bill calling for Arctic Refuge drilling, 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. Voting to bring this conference report to the House floor became a de facto vote on Arctic drilling. On December 19,
2005, the House adopted the rule providing for House floor consideration by a 214-201 vote (House roll call vote 666). NO is the pro-environment vote.
The House then passed the conference report. In the Senate, however, pro-conservation Senators were successful in ensuring that the drilling provision was removed. The revised conference report was then approved by both houses, leaving the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge intact.