Legislation Gives Companies Free Rein to Industrialize Protected Lands and Waters

WASHINGTON (October 26, 2005) -- The U.S. House Resources Committee today approved measures that threaten U.S. coastal waters and irreparably damage one of the country's last pristine wilderness areas, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). By a 24-16 margin, the committee voted to open vast stretches of protected areas off our nation's beaches to oil and gas drilling, and invite oil companies in to exploit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The highly controversial measures will be included in the House's budget reconciliation bill.

Following is a statement by NRDC Legislative Director Karen Wayland:

"The House Resources Committee handed a giant gift to oil and gas companies that are raking in record profits. Neither measure does a thing to help consumers get relief from their huge energy bills.

"Drilling off our nation's beaches in delicate coastal habitats invites huge risks for local economies and the fishing industry. According to the government's own figures, more than 75 percent of offshore oil and gas is already available for drilling. We don't have to sacrifice the few remaining areas that are protected.

"This legislation effectively bribes cash-strapped states into opening their shorelines to oil and gas development, putting their coastal communities in harm's way.

"Opening the Arctic Refuge will do nothing to lower gas prices or lessen our dependence on imported oil. At most, oil from the area would lower gas prices by a penny and a half a gallon, and wouldn't even do that for another 20 years.

"This country needs a balanced energy plan that recognizes the lion's share of global energy resources are buried under countries that are often dangerously unstable. More handouts won't help break our oil addiction. If we improved fuel economy performance 1 mile per gallon per year we would save more than 10 times the oil recoverable from the Refuge.

"We have the technology today to accomplish that goal. There's no reason to destroy one of the last remaining pristine wilderness areas in the country for what amounts to be a drop in the bucket."