2001 Scorecard Vote
National monuments protect a diverse array of unique and fragile cultural, historic, archaeological, biological and scenic areas. Although popular with the American public, national monuments--particularly the 22 new monuments designated by President Clinton--were the targets of early criticism by the Bush administration and its allies in the oil, gas and mining industries. In particular, administration officials indicated that they would consider opening up these monuments to oil and gas exploration and development. In a March 13 press conference, President Bush suggested that such development could take place in some units without harming the environment. In April the Associated Press reported that Interior Secretary Norton said in an interview that drilling in the new monuments was "under consideration."
Environmentalists opposed these developments, arguing that national monuments are treasures to be safeguarded for future generations. In addition, the increased tourism and recreation generated by national monuments depend on preserving these federal lands in perpetuity.
During House consideration of H.R. 2217, the Fiscal Year 2002 Interior Appropriations bill, Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) introduced an amendment to prohibit Secretary Norton from issuing any oil, gas, coal or geothermal leases in any national monument. On June 21, 2001, the House approved the Rahall amendment by a 242-173 vote (House roll call vote 180). YES is the pro-environment vote.
The Senate later approved a similar amendment sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin (Senate vote 3). The Interior appropriations conference report, including this provision, passed both the House and Senate in October and was signed by the president in November.