Oppose Drilling Amendment to Transportation Bill
UPDATE: On Thursday evening, the Senate voted 56-42 to reject the amendment to the transportation bill proposed by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) that would have expanded oil and gas drilling permits off U.S. coasts, including the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Thank you for raising your voice on this critical issue! The Senate also defeated an amendment that would have forced the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline project. The White House denied a permit for the U.S.-Canadian oil pipeline in January, and the President made personal calls to Senate Democrats in advance of last night’s vote, urging them to reject the transportation bill amendment.
Also last night, the Senate approved an amendment that would direct to Gulf States 80% of the fines collected from the 2010 BP oil spill. The amendment, a version of the legislation known as the RESTORE Act, is essential in making sure that these fines are used directly for Gulf Coast recovery efforts. The approval of this bipartisan amendment is a huge victory for the communities and environment of the Gulf, for whom the disaster is far from over.
The transportation bill package must now be approved by the still-divided House of Representatives.
Last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the Senate had finally reached an agreement that would allow a bill to reauthorize transportation funding to proceed. Transportation funding will expire on March 31 if the bill is not passed.
The transportation bill has been delayed in the Senate due to a number of controversial proposed amendments, including one from Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) to extend oil and gas drilling permits in U.S. coastal areas and one that would force the approval of constructing the Keystone XL pipeline. These amendments have prevented what is usually a bipartisan bill from moving forward – in fact, last month Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called it “the worst transportation bill” he has seen in decades.
It is vital for Congress to reauthorize transportation funding, but it cannot come in exchange for expanded oil and gas drilling, activities that pose serious environmental and human health. Of particular concern is Senator Vitter’s amendment to authorize oil and gas exploration off the Alaskan coast, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). ANWR stands as one of America’s last true wilderness areas, containing numerous fragile arctic ecosystem and habitats for caribou, polar bears, arctic foxes, and snowbirds. This area represents the last 5% of Alaska’s North Slope that is not already open to oil exploration and drilling. Drilling with the goal of raising additional revenue threatens ANWR’s fragile ecosystem as well as the way of life for the Guich’in people, natives of the region.
Within the last year alone, the U.S. has already experienced a record increase of domestic oil and gas production. Knowing the threats these operations pose to our health and our environment, we cannot continue – and indeed, cannot afford – to drill wantonly. Urge your Senators to oppose all efforts in the transportation bill to expand oil and gas drilling in our most fragile ecosystems, including the Vitter amendment. The Capitol Switchboard can be reached at 202.224.3121, or you can send an e-mail by clicking here.
Image courtesy of Politico.