Congressman Sandy Levin : Protecting Alaska's Arctic Refuge
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Congressman Sandy Levin
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Protecting Alaska's Arctic Refuge
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The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Northeastern Alaska is one of the few pristine places left in the United States. Congress should take action now to protect it.

Back in 1980, Congress approved the Alaska Lands Act, which set aside 104 million acres of Alaska as wilderness. At the time, Congress could not decide whether the 19 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Northeastern Alaska (ANWR) should be given wilderness status, so it directed the Interior Department to study the issue.

The Wildlife Refuge is located along the coastal plain of Alaska, roughly 65 miles east of the giant Prudhoe Bay oil field. Prudhoe Bay and several other smaller fields on Alaska’s North Slope produce about one quarter of the nation’s oil. The Bush Administration and the petroleum industry are urging Congress to open up the Refuge to oil and gas development.

It is clear the United States can’t drill its way to energy independence. Scientists have no clear idea how much oil is underneath ANWR. There’s a one percent chance it might turn out to be another Prudhoe Bay. The average estimate, though, is that there might be enough oil in ANWR to meet U.S. oil needs for about six months. In any event, even if oil exploration and development got under way in ANWR tomorrow, any oil discovered wouldn’t be available for another 8-10 years.

Rep. Levin strongly opposes efforts to open up the Refuge to oil and gas drilling. On the contrary, he believes Congress should take action now to protect it. Rep. Levin has cosponsored bipartisan legislation (H.R. 567, the “Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act”] to grant the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge permanent wilderness protection.

At the end of 2005, Congress narrowly rejected an effort to open ANWR to drilling.

The Refuge is a unique ecosystem that ought to be preserved.