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.