Rob Perks, Natural Resources Defense Council, 202-289-2420; Pete Rafle, The Wilderness Society, 202-429-2642; Mark Sokolove, League of Conservation Voters, 202-454-4573; Liz Hitchcock, US PIRG, 202-546-9707 x316; Vinay Jain, National Wildlife Federation, 202-797-6894; Annie Strickler, Sierra Club, 202-675-2384
Capitol Hill Offices "A Sea of Blue Shirts" Tuesday Afternoon
WASHINGTON (September 19, 2005) -- Thousands of Americans from across the country gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol this morning to voice their opposition to plans to drill the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Following a rally on the Capitol's west lawn with a diverse slate of political, religious and Native American leaders, enthusiastic groups of Arctic Refuge Action Day participants swarmed House and Senate office buildings to speak to their congressional representatives about the upcoming vote on Arctic Refuge drilling. Among the crowd were more than 1500 citizens who boarded buses late last night or in the pre-dawn hours to attend from as far away as Michigan and Wisconsin.
"Capitol Hill was a sea of blue 'Save the Arctic Refuge' shirts today," said Cindy Shogan of the Alaska Wilderness League. "The sheer numbers of citizens and the level of commitment today were unlike anything we've ever seen in this campaign to protect the refuge. It was an inspirational day."
Both the House and Senate are formulating budget reconciliation bills that would open the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling. Although the energy bill passed by Congress in July does not include Arctic Refuge drilling, proponents of the plan are expected to use budget reconciliation legislation to ram the controversial proposal through Congress. The organizers of today's rally pledged to use the momentum from today's event to counter attempts by the drilling lobby to sneak Arctic Refuge drilling through Congress this year.
"Thousands of Americans came knocking on Congress' front door today to demand that they keep America's commitment to preserving the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. "This should serve as a cautionary note to those who would abuse the federal budget process - or use other backdoor maneuvers -- to turn the oil industry loose in the Arctic Refuge."
Some of today's speakers included environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Joseph Lieberman, (D-CT) and Hilary Clinton (D-NY), Former Congressman Tom Evans (R-DE), and Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Edward Markey (D-MA), Betty McCollum (D-MN); Tom Udall, (D-NM); and Tim Ryan (D-OH). Also addressing the crowd were the Honorable Larry Bagnell of the Canadian Parliament, Episcopal Bishop for Alaska Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, Rabbi David Saperstein, Louisiana conservationist Jerome Ringo, sixth-grade environmental activist Savannah Rose Walters, fifth-grader Taylor Brown of DC's Friendship Charter School, and Native American leaders Sarah James and Chief Joe Linklater.
Arctic Refuge Action Day was the culmination of a summer-long, nationwide grassroots effort to rally support for protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Although some in Congress are pushing for drilling the Refuge as a response to rising gas prices, a new report from the Department of Energy finds that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge wouldn't lower gas prices at all in the short term, and would only net consumers about a penny a gallon at peak production in 2025. To read the report, click here.
The Arctic Refuge Action coalition is composed of the following member groups, and additional groups are being added daily: Alaska Coalition; Alaska Wilderness League; Defenders of Wildlife; Earthjustice; Episcopal Church, USA; Gwich'in Steering Committee; League of Conservation Voters; National Audubon Society; Natural Resources Defense Council; National Wildlife Federation; National Wildlife Refuge Association; Northern Alaskan Environmental Center; R.E.P. America; Trustees for Alaska; Sierra Club; U.S. PIRG; Washington Association of Churches; The Wilderness Society; and World Wildlife Fund.