Environmental groups open new ad campaign; ANWR not the focus

Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Environmental groups are launching what they call ''Phase Two'' of a national advertising campaign to blast the Bush administration.

But the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is missing from their high-profile pitch this time.

Environmentalists said at a news conference Tuesday in Washington that ANWR's absence from the television commercials doesn't mean the battle is over in Congress.

Neither the House nor Senate budget resolutions contains language calling for ANWR to be drilled. That language could have lowered procedural barriers to open ANWR later this year, at least for appropriations.

Alaska's two U.S. senators said there still was a chance they can open ANWR this year. Environmental groups seem to agree.

''No, we don't think the fight is over on the Arctic refuge,'' said Debbie Sease, legislative director for the Sierra Club.

Despite that, the issue didn't make the cut on the latest round of television advertising.

Several groups just finished a national campaign targeting ANWR alone, Sease said. Several other matters deserved attention, she said.

Steve Shimberg, vice president of the National Wildlife Federation, said the new campaign is directed more at Bush's efforts to open public lands in general to development. That includes ANWR, he said.

While there was no mention of ANWR in the new ads, there was plenty at Tuesday's news conference.

Sease offered the standard arguments against drilling -- the most likely amount of oil in ANWR would provide the equivalent of only six months of total U.S. consumption; 95 percent of the North Slope is potentially open to oil development and, with only 3 percent of the world's crude reserves, the United States can't hope to drill out of its energy problems, anyway.

Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska and the prime advocate in Congress for ANWR drilling, responds with now-familiar arguments.

High-end estimates of ANWR oil would be enough to replace the nation's imports from Saudi Arabia for 20 years, he has said. Only about 14 percent of the North Slope is open to leasing, given various administrative restrictions, he said. And while the U.S. might not have a lot of oil, showing ''we're serious'' about developing it will force OPEC to compete with better prices, Murkowski said.

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