2000 Scorecard Vote
With its abundant and diverse wildlife, the coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been called "America's Serengeti." Nearly 200 species, including musk oxen, polar bears, grizzly bears, wolves, and millions of migratory birds make their home in this 1.5 million-acre stretch of tundra. Each year, the coastal plain is also the site of one of North America's great wildlife spectacles: the annual migration of the Porcupine caribou herd. These caribou are a primary source of food for one of the few remaining subsistence cultures in North America, the Gwich'in people.
First established by President Eisenhower in 1960, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was further safeguarded by the Alaska Lands Act of 1980. However, multinational oil corporations have persistently lobbied for congressional authorization to drill along the refuge's sensitive coastline--the last five percent of Alaska's vast north slope to remain off-limits to oil exploration and development. Based on 1998 U.S. Geological Survey estimates, economically recoverable oil from the Refuge would amount to less than six months worth of U.S. oil supplies and meet no more than two percent of U.S. oil needs at any given time.
In 1989, public outrage at the Exxon Valdez oil spill helped to halt a massive industry push to allow full development on the coastal plain. In 1991, another huge outpouring of public pressure derailed President George Bush's "National Energy Strategy," the centerpiece of which called for oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge. In 1995, President Clinton vetoed the entire federal budget bill, in part because it contained a provision that would have allowed oil development in the Arctic Refuge.
This year, using higher gas and heating oil prices as a pretext, Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Frank Murkowski (R-AK) attached a provision to the fiscal year 2001 budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 101) that would have assumed $1.2 billion in revenues from oil leasing in the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain. While this provision was not binding, it would have been a first step toward passage of broader legislation allowing drilling in the refuge.
Senator William Roth (R-DE) brought a motion to strike the drilling provision on the Senate floor. Senator Murkowski then offered a motion to table (kill) the Roth amendment. On April 6, 2000, the Senate agreed to the Murkowski motion by a 51–49 vote (Senate roll call vote 58). NO is the pro-environment vote. The Arctic drilling language was later removed from the budget resolution in House/Senate conference.