In the last issue of The Crossing, we reported the good news that all three Congressmen in our chapter area had signed on as co-sponsors of the Morris K. Udall Wilderness Act. This bill calls for designation of the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge-the refuge's ecological heart-as a wilderness area. Such designation would render the coastal plain permanently off limits to oil exploration and other development. As of early August the bill had a record 158 cosponsors.
It came as no surprise when, on June 16, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) introduced competing legislation (H.R. 2250) that would open up the coastal plain to oil drilling and development. Rep. Young has long been a champion of the extractive industries in Alaska and made a similar effort in 1995 by inserting language in that year's Balanced Budget Act. The language was removed under threat of Presidential veto. H.R. 2250 would allow the sale of oil and gas leases on 200,000 acres annually as long as there is interest among companies for drilling in the area. Just 45,000 acres would be marked as a special area and kept off limits for drilling.
The threat of Rep. Young's bill makes it even more important that we round up co-sponsors for the Udall bill (H.R. 1239.) We thank Congressmen Franks, Holt and Smith for signing on early, along with most of the NJ delegation. Three key NJ Representatives still have not signed on: Jim Saxton, Marge Roukema and Rodney Frelinghuysen. If you know anyone who votes in their districts, please have them make a call to ask their Representative to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Udall bill.
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