Thursday, March 17, 2005

The ANWR debate

The topic of drilling in ANWR could always assure a fiery discussion over at ESPN, and yesterday it seems was no exception. Based on my reading of the threads, the usual suspects lined up in the usual fashion.

This post caught my eye. As background, this poster is a NE transplant living in the Southwest. He is a fervent critic of anything Bush-related and a proud liberal in the Massachusetts tradition.

Aside from the fierce ideological perspective (PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT!), what stood out was the forgetting of a few historical facts. Pats writes:

Get this through your head, ANWR is a refuge, a NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE. This is something we saw and said, wow, this is a nice place where a lot of animals live, let's not ruin this.

A quick look at a timeline reveals the following:

1960: President Eisenhower declares that 8.9 million acres of tundra and mountains in the northeastern corner of Alaska be set aside as a protected wildlife refuge.

1980: Congress expands the refuge to 19 million acres and declares part of it wilderness. Also proclaims that potential oil reserves in the refuge's 1.5 million-acre coastal plain be considered for development, but only if Congress specifically authorizes it.

Specifically, Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), approved by a Democratically controlled Congress. Section 1002 of ANILCA specifically set aside 1.5 million acres of what we now call ANWR for further study of the environmental impact of drilling expected oil deposits in that section of the refuge.

Going to the source, the USGS report "Arctic Refuge Coastal PlainTerrestrial Wildlife Research Summaries" states:

In 1987, the Department of Interior published the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, Coastal Plain Resource Assessment - Report and Recommendation to the Congress of the United States and Final Environmental Impact Statement. This report to Congress identified the potential for oil and gas production (updated* most recently by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2001), described the biological resources, and evaluated the potential adverse effects to fish and wildlife resources. The 1987 report analyzed the potential environmental consequences of five management alternatives for the coastal plain, ranging from wilderness designation to opening the entire area to lease for oil and gas development. The report's summary recommended opening the 1002 Area to an orderly oil and gas leasing program, but cautioned that adverse effects to some wildlife populations were possible.

So, in summary we have 1.5 million acres of land in the refuge set aside by law for potential oil drilling put in effect by a Democratic President and Congress. (Though to be clear, that law did not in and of itself make clear the way to open drilling on the ANWR plain; that could come only by direct action from Congress and the President at a later date.) The italics are important.

Alaska senator Ted Stevens was reportedly considering retiring if the fight over ANWR went differently than has turned out. The Fairbanks News-Miner article from Saturday, March 12th also pointed out a couple of interesting things that speak to the 1980 "deal" that was struck over Section 1002:

Stevens said a recent letter from former President Jimmy Carter urging defeat of the budget resolution amendment probably wouldn't do anything but anger Republicans. It certainly had that effect on Stevens. That's because it got him thinking about those days 25 years ago when Carter was in the White House and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act was on the brink of passage in Congress.

Carter accepted the ANWR compromise in Section 1002 of ANILCA, Stevens said. As he sees it, the compromise they all agreed to back then was this: Oil drilling would not be allowed in the area unless an environmental impact statement found that it could be done with no significant effects on the wildlife and environment. The studies have confirmed that drilling can meet that standard, Stevens believes. So he thinks Carter, and anyone in Congress who opposes the work, is reneging on the original deal.

As I look at the original "deal" in 1980 and contemplate current opposition, I see people ignoring not just "facts" about what drilling will-and/or-won't accomplish but most importantly, rejecting the legitimate claim to ANWR oil by law. Law signed by a President who now shares in the fervent opposition to oil extraction in ANWR.

I am left to conclude that this opposition is purely and totally ideologically driven--a version of religion for the left.

No comments:

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