Today U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) helped strike down legislation to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other coastal waters to new oil and gas drilling. At a Senate Finance Committee markup, Cantwell raised objections to Senator Orrin Hatch's (R-UT) drilling amendment which would allow drilling rigs into the Arctic Refuge and protected coastal waters including those off the coast of Florida and Southern California.
In the face of opposition from Cantwell and others, Hatch withdrew his amendment. Video of her remarks are available here.
"We all know that gas prices going up are a very big challenge to us and we need to find alternatives to foreign oil," Cantwell said."But just drilling more as our strategy to pay for this bill is just not going to get us there .It's as if we think now that we can go ahead and open up all of the drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge."
At the hearing, Cantwell pointed out that increased drilling is unlikely to significantly affect the cost of gas for consumers.
"The Energy Information Agency says if you open up all the off-shore drilling in America that it would only decrease the price of gasoline 3 to 5 cents. And it wouldn't do that until 2030," Cantwell said. "We should not go down a road that we know isn't going to lower the price for us in the near future."
Throughout her career in the Senate, Cantwell has been the Senate leader in blocking plans to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and drilling. Since entering the Senate in 2001, she has cosponsored legislation to permanently protect the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain as a wilderness area. In December of 2005, Cantwell led a historic filibuster which succeeded in reversing a backdoor maneuver by then Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) that combined Arctic Refuge drilling with a must pass bill that funded troops fighting in Iraq. Since then Cantwell has continued to highlight and oppose any plans to allow drilling to move forward in the pristine Arctic refuge.