Friday, November 04, 2005

ANWR Drilling Close to Approval

The Senate blocked an amendment sponsored by Maria Cantwell (D-Wash) that would have removed the ANWR drilling issue from the omnibus budget bill. Since the House also has included approval for ANWR drilling in its version of the budget bill, it will almost certainly pass. Backers of the proposal have been eager to attach the ANWR issue to the upcoming budget bill, because budget bills cannot be filibustered, and are unlikely to be defeated on a straight vote.

It is rather sad to see this measure pass. If environmentalists are correct, the drilling is unlikely to make much of a dent in oil prices, or in the supply of oil available to the American public. But at the same time, the drilling process can be expected to do much harm to the unique habitats and wildlife at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Oil spills are a bane associated with most oil production sites, and no doubt will occur at ANWR. The heavy machinery and traffic necessary to operate the drilling sites will certainly have an impact on the surrounding land habitats as well. As we know from other places, human impact is not restricted to the precise lands upon which the roads and buildings sit, but includes an impact zone that can stretch farther away than one might initially expect.

George Bush entered office determined to bring drilling to ANWR, and now it appears that he will get his wish. To me, the only surprise is that he did not get it four years sooner.

Update: Here is an annotated checklist of the birds of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.