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3 months, 30 years

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  • John Snyder
    Maybe I m just feeling old today. Thirty years does not seem like a very long period of time. John Drilling Could Hurt Wildlife, Federal Study of Arctic Says
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 30, 2002
      Maybe I'm just feeling old today. Thirty years does
      not seem like a very long period of time.


      Drilling Could Hurt Wildlife, Federal Study of Arctic Says

      March 30, 2002


      SEATTLE, March 29 - Undercutting the Bush administration's
      case for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife
      Refuge in Alaska, a federal study released today said that
      such drilling could harm caribou, snow geese, musk oxen and
      other wildlife.

      The report, by the United States Geological Survey, a
      branch of the Interior Department, comes just a week and a
      half before the Senate is scheduled to begin debating the
      White House's plan to allow drilling in the 19-million-acre
      refuge. Drilling was approved in an energy plan backed by
      the House, but opponents say they have the votes in the
      Democrat-controlled Senate to block it.

      The report paid particular attention to the Porcupine River
      caribou herd, which is 125,000 strong and masses on the
      Arctic coastal plain early each summer to gorge on tundra
      grass and flowers and to give birth after a long migration
      from the Canadian Yukon.

      "Oil development will most likely result in restricting the
      location of concentrated calving areas, calving sites and
      annual calving grounds," the report said. Among the
      expected effects, it said, are reductions in the survival
      of calves in June, in the weight in pregnant females and in
      the weight of calves in late June.

      Proponents of drilling have long contended that the caribou
      can easily coexist with drilling, just as a separate herd
      (though one that is larger and has a less strenuous
      migration pattern) has done with the drilling 100 miles or
      so to the west, near Prudhoe Bay.

      Both the White House and the Interior Department took pains
      today to play down the report, arguing that it was based on
      an earlier and more invasive plan for drilling that has
      since been revised.

      "We're not looking at what the U.S.G.S. studied," a White
      House spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, who was traveling with
      President Bush in Texas, said today. "We are talking about
      exploring a very small part" of the refuge.

      An Interior Department spokesman in Washington, Mark
      Pfeifle, told The Associated Press that the report
      "bolsters the administration's mandate" to develop the
      refuge with strict regard for environmental regulations.
      "It demonstrates that with new technology, tough
      regulations and common-sense management, we can protect
      wildlife and produce energy," Mr. Pfeifle said.

      But opponents of drilling quickly said the report was just
      the latest in a string of findings by lower-level agencies
      that directly contradicted administration assertions that
      the refuge could be developed without harming the

      "Once again the administration has released a report
      undermining its own case," said Senator Joseph I.
      Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut.

      Just how much oil is locked below the Arctic permafrost is
      unclear, but estimates are 3 billion to 16 billion barrels.
      That would be only a few months of the nation's oil supply,
      as drilling opponents say, using the lower range, or as
      much as 30 years' worth of current daily imports from some
      Middle Eastern countries, as supporters say, citing the
      higher figures.

      In addition to studying the caribou and geese, the report
      analyzed drilling's impact on the roughly 300
      prehistoric-looking musk oxen that are among the more
      striking wildlife sights in the refuge.

      "Musk oxen in the refuge are vulnerable to disturbance from
      activities associated with petroleum exploration and
      extraction because of their year-round residency, their
      small population numbers and their need to conserve energy
      throughout the long winter if they are to successfully
      reproduce," the report said.

      The oxen barely move in winter, an important factor in
      keeping them alive in the frigid months. Drilling, the
      report said, could change that by forcing them to use up
      their own vital energy stores in moving away from the noise
      and tumult of an industrial energy structure.

      "Disturbances that induce displacement from prime winter
      habitats or increase activity and movement," the report
      said, "could increase energetic costs to musk oxen in


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