Oct. 26, 2005 – In an effort to expedite final approval of an appropriations bill passed this spring, the US House of Representatives is set to consider today an energy bill bearing a trio of proposals to allow government sale of leases to energy companies wishing to explore and exploit resources in the nationâ€™s national park system off the coast.
Put forth by House Committee on Resources head Richard Pombo (R-California), the package includes proposals to open the northern coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling, offer states an "opt-out" on coastal offshore oil drilling prohibitions and allow the National Park Service to sell mineral rights and land to mining interests.
Several groups have been fighting plans to drill in the Arctic Refuge and proposals to expand offshore oil drilling for years, most recently working to oppose the Gasoline for Americaâ€™s Security (GAS) Act, which the House passed earlier this month. Pombo was also a chief architect of that legislation.
While conservationists have grown accustomed to fighting Pombo and others over the fate of the Alaskan wilderness and offshore habitats, the third leg of the energy-related savings proposal came as a surprise, according to the National Parks Conservation Association. In a statement released yesterday, NPCA Vice President Craig Obey referred to the plan to open parkland to mining as "alarming" and said that Pombo went back on his word by including the measure.
"Pombo has effectively put a big â€˜for saleâ€™ sign on Americaâ€™s heritage," Obey said. "We call on Chairman Pombo to repudiate this proposal and any other effort to commercialize Americaâ€™s National Park System."
In television and newspaper ads running in New Jersey, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and other environmental groups ask Republican representatives to oppose the Pombo package and note that a recent US Energy Department report showed that drilling in the Alaskan refuge is unlikely to produce enough oil to lower fuel prices.
All three proposals are expected to raise $2.4 billion in increased revenues for the government. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee considered and passed a similar package last week.