Reynolds backs oil drilling in Arctic
By JAY REY
News Staff Reporter
One day after President Clinton decided against designating a 19-million-acre Alaskan refuge as a national monument, a local member of Congress announced his support for oil drilling on that land to help reduce home-heating costs.
Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, is pressing to open 1.5 million acres within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil drilling.
"An estimated 16 billion barrels of oil lies beneath a flat tract of Arctic desert on Alaska's coastal plain, enough oil to replace all imports from Saudi Arabia for the next 30 years," Reynolds said Thursday at his Amherst office. "And I believe we can get that oil safely and responsibly."
Environmentalists have urged Clinton to declare the 19 million-acre refuge a national monument before he leaves office next week, to block energy companies from drilling for oil and natural gas in the area.
Clinton said he opposes drilling in the refuge, but said the area is protected by federal law that prevents drilling unless approved by Congress.
On Thursday, Reynolds said he plans to co-sponsor legislation asking President-elect George W. Bush to support the proposal to drill on the refuge. Bush, a former Texas oilman, has made giving energy companies drilling access to the refuge's 1.5 million-acre coastal plan a key part of his national energy policy so the United States is less dependent on foreign oil imports.
The U.S. now relies on foreign imports for 56 percent of its crude oil, Reynolds said. The Department of Energy estimates that number will climb to 65 percent by 2020, he said.
Clinton's decision not to designate the land a national monument is "one less roadblock," Reynolds said.
"First and foremost, this country needs a comprehensive energy policy to address the high cost of gasoline and home heating - something that's been lacking in the outgoing administration," he said.