NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

U.S. Senate rejects the latest Republican plot to open the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling

Some good news for a change from the oth­er Wash­ing­ton today: The U.S. Sen­ate has resound­ing­ly reject­ed the lat­est Repub­li­can plot to open the Arc­tic Refuge’s Coastal Plain to oil drilling, defeat­ing an amend­ment offered by Pat Roberts of Kansas intend­ed to allow big oil com­pa­nies like Shell or BP to begin despoil­ing one of our nation’s great­est nation­al wonders.

The amend­ment, to Sen­ate Bill 1813, need­ed six­ty votes to pass; it received only forty-one, with fifty-sev­en sen­a­tors vot­ing no and two sen­a­tors not voting.

Sev­er­al Repub­li­cans joined most Democ­rats in vot­ing no; three Democ­rats joined the remain­der of the Repub­li­cans in vot­ing yes.

The Repub­li­cans who vot­ed against drilling were Scott Brown, Bob Cork­er, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Mar­co Rubio. Democ­rats who vot­ed for drilling were Mark Begich (of Alas­ka), Claire McCaskill,and Joe Manchin.

Sur­pris­ing­ly, Big Oil’s favorite Demo­c­rat, Mary Lan­drieu, vot­ed no on the amend­ment — per­haps she was lob­bied to cast a sen­si­ble “no” vote by her good friend Maria Cantwell, who has been in the van­guard of fights to pro­tect the Arc­tic Refuge in our nation’s capital.

The Pacif­ic North­west­’s del­e­ga­tion vot­ed as follows:

AYE on the amend­ment (for drilling): Mark Begich, Lisa Murkows­ki (Alas­ka); Mike Crapo, Jim Risch (Ida­ho)

NAY on the amend­ment (opposed to drilling): Maria Cantwell, Pat­ty Mur­ray (Wash­ing­ton); Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden (Ore­gon); Jon Tester, Max Bau­cus (Mon­tana)

Sen­a­tor Cantwell’s office has not yet issued a state­ment on the vote. We’ll be in touch with her staff tomor­row to get her reac­tion, and will update this post accord­ing­ly. We’ll also check in with our friends at the Alas­ka Wilder­ness League to see if they have any comment.

Last week, the Sen­ate defeat­ed anoth­er bad amend­ment aimed at allow­ing Tran­sCana­da to build its pro­posed Key­stone XL pipeline with­out hav­ing to under­go envi­ron­men­tal review and pub­lic scruti­ny. That amend­ment, offered by John Hoeven, received the unan­i­mous sup­port of Sen­ate Repub­li­cans, plus a hand­ful of Democ­rats, but it still failed because it did not reach the six­ty-vote threshold.

After Hoeven’s amend­ment failed, 350.org founder Bill McK­ibben con­grat­u­lat­ed the forty-two Sen­ate Democ­rats who stood up to the oil indus­try and warned that the bat­tle to stop Key­stone XL is far from over.

“Today’s vote was a tem­po­rary vic­to­ry and there’s no guar­an­tee that it holds for the long run,” he said. “But giv­en that this thing was a ‘no brain­er’ a year ago, it’s pret­ty remark­able that peo­ple pow­er was able to keep work­ing, even in the oil-soaked Sen­ate. We’re grate­ful to the Admin­is­tra­tion for deny­ing the per­mit and for Sen­ate lead­er­ship for hold­ing the line.”

“The rea­son this fight has been so hard is because of the finan­cial pow­er of the fos­sil fuel indus­try, so that’s what we’re going after now,” McK­ibben added. “We’ve been play­ing defense for months, now we’ve got to quick­ly go on offense. Going for­ward, we’ll be work­ing with the huge majori­ties of Amer­i­cans who want to end sub­si­dies to the fos­sil fuel indus­try. We’ve learned a lot, not all of it savory, about how the polit­i­cal process works, and we’re going to put that to use.”

We at NPI strong­ly believe that more drilling is not the answer to our ener­gy secu­ri­ty prob­lem. That’s why we oppose the con­struc­tion of the Key­stone XL pipeline as well as risky onshore and off­shore drilling schemes, espe­cial­ly in pro­tect­ed areas like the Arc­tic Refuge.

We need to be invest­ing in renew­able ener­gy alter­na­tives, devel­op­ing a a smarter elec­tric grid, and step­ping up con­ser­va­tion — not per­pet­u­at­ing our fos­sil fuel addic­tion. Extract­ing and burn­ing hydro­car­bons wors­ens air qual­i­ty, cre­ates more pol­lu­tion, and makes the cli­mate cri­sis worse. We’ve known for a long time that fos­sil fuels are dirty and finite. Yet the indus­try that extracts and sells them con­tin­ues to dic­tate our nation’s ener­gy pol­i­cy. It’s time for that to change.

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3 Comments

  1. Let’s stop all drilling and use of all bio­fu­el. I want to keep tilt­ing at wind­mills and tan­ning with my solar tube. Ya that’s the ticket!

    # by T.W. Jones :: March 17th, 2012 at 4:37 PM
  2. One small step for men and women. One giant leap for humankind. Every time we say “enough is enough” to fos­sil fuels, we cre­ate the pos­si­bil­i­ty for tak­ing anoth­er course. Some­times that breath­ing space is all some­one needs to start some­thing new. As Pres­i­dent Lin­coln said, we must “think and act anew.”

    # by Gael Tarleton :: March 17th, 2012 at 9:45 PM
  3. Too bad you can’t see past your lib­er­al bias. We need our own sup­ply of oil. The real­i­ty is we have plen­ty of it. We are depen­dent on the sup­ply of oth­ers. Oth­ers are tak­ing advan­tage of this fact and gas prices climb high­er and higher.

    # by Caballo Sinnombre :: March 18th, 2012 at 11:11 AM
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