Statement by Karen Wayland, NRDC Legislative Director

WASHINGTON (November 3, 2005) -- The U.S. Senate today approved opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling, a move that could irreparably damage one of the nation's last unspoiled wilderness areas according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The House of Representatives could take up this measure as early as next week. The House bill also includes oil and gas drilling in coastal areas and gives away public lands to mining companies.

Following is a statement by NRDC Legislative Director Karen Wayland:

"Today the Senate caved in to oil and gas companies that are rolling in record profits. The bill will make these companies richer at the expense of the American public, who will lose a part of their national heritage when the oil drills start turning in the heart of the Arctic wilderness. Tacking a controversial measure that could not pass on its own on to this budget bill circumvents the normal legislative process and is dirty politics at its worst.

"The politicians who want to drill in the Arctic Refuge and off America's coastline are deceiving themselves and the public alike if they believe that sacrificing irreplaceable national assets will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. If we truly want to protect consumers once and for all, the only answer is a serious policy to reduce the amount of energy we need to keep our economy on the move. We have the technology to fix the problem. What we need is the leadership to make it happen.

"Drilling in the Arctic will not provide any real relief to people who are struggling to fill up their gas tanks and heat their homes this winter. It will take at least 10 years for the oil to flow. Even then, the government's own experts say it will reduce gas prices by only about a penny a gallon."