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Society for Animal Protective Legislation: Subversion of Democratic Process Becoming Norm for U.S. Senate

U.S. Newswire / March 16, 2005

Washington, March 16 /U.S. Newswire -- In only the latest of a series of devastating blows aimed at overturning long standing environmental and animal protection measures, the Senate voted 49-51 to narrowly defeat an amendment sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) that would have prevented devastating oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The amendment by Senator Cantwell and Senator Kerry was in response to Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens' attachment of a "rider" to the 2006 budget resolution. "His back door tactic was clear - budget bills are exempt from the normal legislative processes, including filibusters, so only 51 votes were necessary to achieve his 20 year goal of opening the ANWR to oil exploration," said Cathy Liss, legislative director of the Society for Animal Protective Legislation. "In the past, measures have been stopped because the required 60 votes were unattainable. Access to the ANWR likely would have been denied once again this year had Senator Stevens proceeded through the normal democratic route."

There is no debate over the amount of oil likely to be exploited from this pristine and rare wildness. Oil drilling proponents and opponents alike recognize that no oil will be extracted for at least 10 years and even then the supply is expected to last, at the most, nine months. Thus, tapping oil from the ANWR would have no impact on current soaring oil prices or long term benefit. However, anyone listening to those voting to defeat the Cantwell - Kerry Amendment would not know this. Instead, the mantra of "increased oil production will reduce our reliance on foreign oil" consistently echoed throughout the hallowed Senate chamber.

The ANWR is home to 45 species of mammals, including gray wolves, arctic foxes, lynx, moose, caribou, walrus, seals, endangered bowhead whales and bears. 180 species of birds also thrive there, such as threatened Steller's eiders, red-throated loons, tundra and trumpeter swans, Canada and snow geese, harlequin ducks, hawks, bald and golden eagles, peregrine falcons, sandhill cranes, American golden-plovers and snowy owls. Assuming Congress agrees on a budget, the survival of these animals and many more just became much more tenuous.

Today, the Senate has committed a tremendous disservice to all Americans and generations to come. By allowing this destructive "rider" to slip through the entire democratic process has been shaken. Emboldened by its recent anti-environmental successes, the Senate's next target will undoubtedly be the Endangered Species Act. Americans, clearly supportive of preserving national treasures such as the ANWR, cannot afford to remain passive; the public must rise up and safeguard our beautiful country as a legacy to future generations.

For additional information, please visit http://www.awionline.org/pubs/Quarterly/04-53-1/531p10.htm
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