After months of delays, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget reconciliation bill by a razor-thin 217-215 margin in the pre-dawn hours of Nov. 18.
Thanks to a principled stand by representatives on both sides of the aisle, the House was forced last week to strip a provision from the budget bill that would have opened the 1.5 million-acre Coastal Plain of America's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to sprawling oil development.
The success of this bipartisan effort clearly demonstrates that the House is a dead-end for the drilling lobby's back-door plan to drill the Arctic Refuge.
Nevertheless, some cynical politicians have made it clear that will not give up their misguided plan and will still try to put Arctic Refuge drilling back in the bill during the upcoming House-Senate conference.
A strong group of centrist Republican members have made it clear that they will oppose the bill if it includes drilling provisions, and Democrats have been unanimously opposed to the bill. It is anyone's guess what (if anything) will emerge out of the closed-door conference, but it is clear that any bill that includes Arctic Refuge drilling will run into a brick wall.
A small margin of passage for the Senate's bill means that longstanding Senate champions of Arctic Refuge protection are also in a position to seal the fate of this misguided drilling plan.
Sacrificing a national treasure to save consumers only a penny per gallon at the pump in 20 years is a bad deal for America. Until Congress abandons this reckless drilling plan, millions of Americans will continue to call, write and visit their members of Congress to demand that the Arctic Refuge remains wild, unspoiled and free of oil rigs.
Western States Field Associate
The State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs)