The Canadian government has joined the last-ditch effort by activists to prevent oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Citing a 1987 bi-lateral agreement to protect the Porcupine River caribou herd that migrates from the Canadian Yukon to ANWR’s coastal plain each year, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew is urging the U.S. to honor its 18-year commitment by halting its drilling plans.
In a letter to chairperson of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Richard Lugar (R-IN), Pettigrew complained that hurricane damage is being used to justify the ANWR drilling plan: “This disaster is being used by some to promote the development of petroleum resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, using energy security as their rationale.” Pettigrew added that the “minimal oil resources in the Arctic Refuge” would not make a timely or significant contribution to U.S. energy supplies.
Meanwhile, Larry Bagnell, parliamentary secretary to Canada’s Natural Resources Minister, reports that the Canadian government is “exploring various legal moves” to force the United States to abide by the caribou herd protection agreement.
The Bush administration has been trying in vain to get approval for drilling in ANWR since 2001. Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats and environmentalists have been rallying support to permanently designate the disputed lands as wilderness off-limits to development and resource extraction.
By adding the drilling provision into its budget bill this past spring, though, Bush’s Republican allies in the Senate were able to prevent opponents across the aisle from filibustering the controversial proposal. Now, Congressional Democrats can only scuttle the plan by voting down the entire budget bill, which provides funding for homeland security, the war in Iraq and hurricane relief, among other national priorities. House and Senate leaders hope to reconcile their respective budget bills by the end of October, giving environmentalists—and Canadians—a scant few weeks to lobby for the elimination of the drilling provision.