Sen. Roberts' Amendment Is Just a Wish List for Big Oil

Tomorrow, the Senate is scheduled to vote on amendment #1826 to the Senate Transportation bill (S. 1813).  Introduced by Sen. Roberts (R-KS), this wish list for Big Oil is even worse than the Vitter amendment that failed in the Senate last week.  It would mandate drilling off of every coast in our nation and in the Arctic Refuge, allow oil shale development on millions of acres in America’s west, and allow the already-rejected Keystone XL pipeline to go forward.

Here’s a rundown on this harmful amendment:

  • Forces New Drilling EVERYWHERE Offshore would require a doubling of oil drilling over current levels, forcing new drilling off the Atlantic coast—from Maine to Florida—off the California coast, and in the Alaskan Arctic. Moreover, the amendment would fast-track this drilling by requiring that these areas be made available in the Proposed Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017, which currently excludes the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts and much of the Arctic. Further, it leaves no discretion at all to this or future Administrations to decide how and where to offer oil leases along both U.S. coasts; it simply requires a set percentage of the coast be leased each year until every available parcel is leased. Finally, the Roberts amendment deems old environmental impact assessments adequate for the leases within the bill, even though they were completed before the BP oil disaster and, as a result, do not consider new information learned from the spill.
  • Requires Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – would mandate oil and gas drilling on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s 1.5 million acre Coastal Plain for the very first time. This pristine and delicate environment, which was set aside under President Eisenhower, is home to nearly 200 wildlife species, including polar bears, musk oxen, and caribou, is simply too special to sacrifice to oil and gas development. Further, the amendment would expedite and limit environmental and judicial reviews.
  • Opens Millions of Acres in the West to Oil Shale Development – would force the Secretary to open millions of acres of federal lands in the west to oil shale development. The process of oil shale extraction, which is akin to squeezing oil out of solid rock, incurs substantial environmental impacts for air, climate, land, wildlife, and water resources, while also requiring enormous amounts of energy to heat the oil shale, basically defeating the whole purpose of developing a new energy source. Further, oil shale development is shortsighted from an economic standpoint since it has never proven to be commercially viable, despite over a century of concerted efforts.  For more information, see here.
  • Approves the Already Rejected Keystone XL Pipeline – this provision, which failed in the Senate just last Thursday,  would approve the already rejected Keystone XL tar sands pipeline without environmental review. It would also circumvent a process designed to protect the public’s safety, health, and economic well being. It is not in the public interest to approve a project that that will worsen climate change, likely lead to oil spills, and raise oil prices – all so that tar sands companies can export tar sands from the Gulf.  The amendment also would turn Congress into a permitting agency.  For more information, see here

Not only would this amendment despoil our environment, but it also doesn’t make sense from a fiscal perspective since the leasing required by this amendment would NOT succeed in funding our nation’s transportation infrastructure needs. 

In short, while this amendment gives Big Oil pretty much everything it wants, it does absolutely nothing for the rest of us.

About the Authors

Elly Pepper

Wildlife Advocate, Land & Wildlife program

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