Sierra Club addresses drilling plans

By Erin Calandriello

Clayton Daughenbaugh, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, will make a presentation today at the University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright St., to make his case for the need to preserve wildlife refuges.

The presentation, to begin at 4 p.m., is one of many Daughenbaugh will give as he crosses the country to raise awareness. The stakes, however, have risen since the beginning of his travels – the U.S. Senate secured into the new budget a revenue provision authorizing drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Daughenbaugh’s presentation argues that the Bush Administration is already exploiting many public lands for oil and gas drilling besides ANWR.

“The Bush administration plans on drilling it all,” Daughenbaugh said. “Right now, there are 80,000 new wells in the grasslands of Wyoming and Montana, which will be used mainly for natural gas. This ANWR plan is a wedge, which will allow them to open up the coasts of Florida and California to drilling.”

Suzanne Beyeler, graduate student in the University Wildlife Club, said the administration’s policies will have serious consequences.

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“If this passes through, Bush is removing the protection of wildlife,” she said. “It’s setting a really bad precedent for how we will treat all natural habitats.

“Drilling for oil will have a significantly negative impact on the mating and dispersal problems of wildlife. It would take hundreds of years for the arctic system to come back to its natural state if they were to go in and damage it by drilling for oil,” Beyeler said.

Daughenbaugh said the ANWR drilling plan has no real benefits.

“The Bush administration is claiming the ANWR drilling plan will lower the prices of gas. Yet, it has nothing to do with it,” he said. “It will be 10 years before we get oil and the amount of oil is not sufficiently significant to make a noticeable impact on gas prices. The Bush administration is pulling the wool over the eyes of Congress for their greed in favor of oil development.”

But Greg Meves, president of the College Republicans, said the Sierra Club is exaggerating the problem.

“Gas prices are pretty high and if we could find a way to get oil and not be fighting a war, why not? I don’t see why they’re so upset about it. It doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me,” Meves said.

Meves said the ANWR oil-drilling plan would pass in the House, despite the warnings of possible harm to wildlife.

“Republicans do have a pretty large majority and therefore I think there is a good chance the ANWR drilling plan will pass,” Meves said.

But Daughenbaugh said he believes the ANWR drilling plan will not pass in the House.

“Polls say the majority of people don’t support destroying wildlife refuges for the sake of finding oil. Bush should be a good patriot and leave these lands, which have value in their own right, alone. The will of the people will prevail over the Bush administration,” he said.