Many environmentalists cheered when Democratic Senators blocked efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling a couple of weeks ago, but players on both sides of the issue concede that the long-running battle is not over.
“It’s absolutely not the end of it,” said David van den Berg of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, adding that until the U.S. can commit to renewable energy, Americans will continue to view ANWR as a source of fuel.
Meanwhile, Luci Beach, director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee that advocates for protecting ANWR on behalf of native peoples dependent on healthy wildlife populations in the area, vows not to give up working on the issue. “The proponents of development have been pushing on this even longer than we’ve been working,” she says.
On the other side of the debate, pro-drilling advocates have been expressing disappointment at the recent setback. “It’s really a shame that the rest of the nation has such a poor understanding (of developing ANWR),” says Peter Leatherd, president of a company that provides engineering, construction and maintenance support to oil companies working in Alaska. “The environmentalists have done a far better job of getting their false case across to the nation,” he adds.
But while pro-drilling supporters may have squandered their best chance to open up ANWR in years, they are sure to keep trying. “I’m hopeful that we’ll hear about it again,” says Dan Britton of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce. “The need has not changed.”