Following procedural votes today in relation to opening ANWR to oil exploration Senator Stevens vowed that the fight to see that drilling can begin in the 1002 area of ANWR is far from over.
"It is a moral issue from here on out. The Eskimo people deserve to be heard in terms of their own rights in the area. They own 92,000 acres within the 1002 area of ANWR. They should have a right to pursue their own interests there and drill on their own land. We?re going to pursue that on this Energy bill. Why should the Alaska Eskimos be the only indigenous people who own land that are forbidden from drilling on it, forbidden from using it to provide jobs for their people and jobs for American industry" said Stevens
Stevens today voted to open the 1002 area of ANWR to oil exploration and is disappointed there were not sufficient votes in the Senate to open the 2,000 acre area. A procedural vote to end debate on the ANWR amendment was voted down 46-54.
An amendment offered by Stevens to use the federal share of ANWR revenues to revitalize the U.S. steel industry, ensuring it can participate in the construction of an Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline failed to garner enough votes to end debate by a vote of 36-64. Stevens subsequently withdrew the amendment.
"If it werent for lobbying by the radical environmentalists, Democratic Senators today would not have voted against billions of dollars in health care benefits for retired steel and coal workers," said Stevens. "The legacy costs have prevented the steel industry from consolidating, modernizing, and retooling to produce the steel to build the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline."
The opposition claims they are introducing legislation to solve the legacy cost issue, but they have not identified a funding mechanism. Stevens' amendment would have aided the steel workers without raising taxes or raiding the U.S. Treasury.
Stevens further expressed disappointment that the Senate failed to honor the commitment made to Alaska by the Senate in a 1980 amendment authored by then Senators Paul Tsongas (D-MA) and Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D-WA) and adopted during consideration of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).
The amendment set aside 1.5 million acres for oil and gas exploration within ANWR's 19 million acres. It was accepted as part of a larger compromise that withdrew 104 million acres in Alaska for the federal government.
"It's nonsense that the Senate won't keep the commitment that was made. I've learned a lesson from this over the last 21 years, and that is not to depend upon future Congresses, particularly future Senators, to keep commitments made by a previous Congress and President," Stevens said. "If you really want a continuum in terms of what's causing the United States' 57 percent dependence upon foreign oil, then follow the Democratic Party. Follow them to dependence upon foreign oil, the exporting of U.S. jobs, and the total dependence upon the philosophies of foreign nations."
Stevens' amendment would have provided more than $7 billion over the next 30 years for the 600,000 steel workers who could lose their health care benefits because of the downturn in the domestic steel industry. Under the amendment an additional $900 million would have been set aside to shore up the existing coal miners retirement fund over the same time period. The amendment would have set aside $155 million for conservation efforts, $155 million to train American workers for construction of an Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline and $232 million for loans and grants for U.S. industries to get ready to provide supplies for the project over the next three years.