Report says energy bill would destroy wildlands

The Associated Press
Wednesday August 01, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO — Two environmental groups released a report and map that warn of the possible destruction to wildlands across the country if President Bush’s energy plan is approved. 

The groups are urging the U.S. House of Representatives not to approve the energy bill under consideration.  

The report and map come as the White House and congressional Republicans renewed intense lobbying for the Bush energy plan, and was released the same day Bush again called for drilling in an Arctic wildlife refuge. 

The Sierra Club’s map shows what the nation would look like if the 1,300 proposed new power plants were evenly spread across the country. 

“It looks like the country got a bad case of the chicken pox,” said Eric Wesselman, regional energy representative for the Sierra Club. 

The groups said the plan could increase air pollution, destroy wild areas and pose threats to neighborhoods with new nuclear reactors.  

They called on the Bush administration instead to focus on alternative forms of energy and conservation, and to take such action as increasing the fuel efficiency of sport-utility vehicles. 

The Wilderness Society’s report and map highlight 16 areas it says are representative of the wildlands that could be negatively affected by drilling for oil and natural gas.  

The areas include national forests and deserts, grasslands, canyons, basins and monuments across the country. 

“This proposal presents an incredibly narrow view,” said Dan Smuts, assistant regional director for the Wilderness Society. “Drilling in these areas would do nothing to solve our dependence on foreign oil.” 

Environmental groups have argued that increased drilling in these areas, most notably the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, will not yield a substantial amount of oil or natural gas. 

“The modest payoff does not justify the damage that would be done to the air and wildlife and water quality,” Smuts said. 

But Bush said again Tuesday that he thinks the drilling could be done without harming the environment. 

The report warns that the California Coastal National Monument, which stretches the length of the state, is threatened by offshore drilling, as oil companies have 36 leases to drill for oil and natural gas off the coast.  

It also highlighted the Carrizo Plain National Monument, near Bakersfield, where drilling could take place. 

The Carrizo Plain holds the largest concentration of vertebrate endangered and threatened species in the world, Wesselman said, and drilling there would harm the delicate balance. 

“Clearly, we’re dependent on fossil fuels. We’re not saying we should get rid of the internal combustion engine,” he said. “We don’t need to drill for oil and natural gas in our nation’s most special wildlands.” 

In spring, Bush released his plan for increasing the nation’s energy supply, warning that gasoline and electricity prices could rise.  

The plan includes expanding oil and gas drilling on public land and focusing on nuclear power. 

The House energy package includes incentives for technology that would allow continued use of coal to produce power and would give tax breaks to those who buy hybrid gas-electric vehicles. It would also give tax breaks and favors to the coal, oil and nuclear industries. 



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