December 22, 2005

We Saved the Arctic

The Arctic National Widlife Refuge survived its closest brush yet with becoming an industrial site sacrificed to our voracious oil appetite and lack of an energy policy when the Senate majority fell four votes short of cutting off a filibuster to protest adding the drilling to the must-pass Defense budget bill.

Senator Durbin played a key role in organizing opposition, and gave one of the final (and best) speeches during a dramatic floor debate. Senator Obama was an early signer to a letter last week organized by Washington Senator Maria Cantwell protesting adding the drilling provisions to this bill. Since the Defense Department budget bill must pass, it rapidly became a big expensive Christmas tree loaded with non-Pentagon related provisions. Drilling the Arctic would have been a very ugly ornament indeed.

This is a big victory for the national environmental movement at a time when it needed one badly. It is a testament to all the work done over the decades to show and tell Americans about the importance and beauty of this place that most of us will never see, but want to know that it will always be wild.

So to all of you in Illinois who did your part in this historic battle, you have something else to celebrate this holiday season. If you wrote your letters, made your calls, came to a rally, helped elect either or both of our two fine Senators, this is your victory, and you certainly deserve it.

Happy holidays to you, and to the polar bears, caribou, and others that call the Refuge home.

December 21, 2005

CSPAN Might Actually Be Exciting Wednesday

Having failed to win passage of Arctic drilling through the Budget process,
Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) has inserted his proposal to open up the Arctic
Refuge in the Defense spending bill. Stevens is holding the wildly popular
DOD approps bill hostage in order to force his controversial drilling
legislation through Congress.

A growing cadre of Senators has voiced objection to Stevens latest gambit.
Because Arctic drilling was not part of the DOD bill sent over from the
House, nor the bill passed by the Senate, the measure is "outside the scope
of the conference" under senate Rules. On Wednesday, Senators Cantwell,
Reid, Kerry, Durbin, Lieberman and others will raise a point of order
against the Stevens drilling provision. The parliamentarian will agree
that Arctic is non- germane and then Stevens will have to win a vote to
overturn the ruling of the Chair. He will have to secure 51 votes, or a
majority of those present to prevail. Already 47 senators have lent their
name to a letter objecting to Stevens abuse of senate rules including 5

If Stevens wins a vote to overturn the Senate rules and keep Arctic
drilling part of the DOD approps bill, drilling opponents have committed
to filibuster the legislation and force Stevens back to conference to strip
the provision before a final DOD funding bill passes the Senate. The onus
is on Stevens to produce 60 votes to support his overturn of the Senate
rules. Despite the nervousness about the idea of filibustering this
important bill, this is a vote we can win!

Tell Senators Durbin and Obama to Stay Strong!

Please urge them to:

1. support efforts to strip this language from the Defense Funding bill and
2. filibuster the legislation if necessary to ensure that Arctic drilling
does not become law.

Connect to their offices by calling 1-888-8-WILDAK

December 15, 2005

A Last-Ditch Attempt To Drill the Arctic

The word on Capitol Hill is that Arctic drilling has been dropped from the budget bill and attached to the defense appropriations bill instead. The last-minute tactic is a cynical move by the pro-drilling lobby, particularly as this is the spending bill that funds our troops in wartime. Don't let them get away with it: Call the Capitol Switchboard now at (202) 224-3121.

Senators Durbin and Obama have been steadfast in their opposition to sacrificing OUR Refuge for oil company profits. We need their help one more time, even as the Senate leadership links Arctic drilling to the same bill that funds our veterans and armed forces. Tell them to oppose this outrage.

December 11, 2005

New Tribune Series on "The Mercury Menace"

Today begins a special series in the Tribune on how mercury-contaminated fish are widely available at supermarkets around Chicagoland.,1,3096866.htmlstory?coll=chi-news-hed&ctrack=1&cset=true

Hopefully Gov. Blagojevich will soon announce strict limits on power plant pollution to help solve this problem.

December 09, 2005

IDNR Nixes Banner Mine Proposal!

The IDNR has denied an essential permit for a proposed strip mine near the Illinois River, and between the Banner Marsh and Rice Lake wildlife refuges.

Banner Marsh

The mine proposal could resurface, but this is great news for local residents and the Illinois River. Congratulations and thank you to the residents of Banner, the Heart of Illinois Sierra Club (led in this victory by the indefatigable Joyce Blumenshine), Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, who championed this cause as part of his advocacy for the Illinois River watershed, and of course the IDNR for making the right call.