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E-M:/ Exxon Valdez: 16th Anniversary of Oil Spill Comes With Renewed Threats to Coasts, Arctic



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Enviro-Mich message from "Anne Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>
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Because national energy policies and the ANWR vote last week resonate in
Michigan, this press release will be of interest to many of you -- MI's two
Senators voted against opening up ANWR to drilling.  AW

For Immediate Release: March 23, 2004
   Contact: Annie Strickler, (202) 675-2384

16 YEARS AFTER EXXON VALDEZ TRAGEDY:  ARCTIC REFUGE, AMERICA'S COASTS STILL
                                  AT RISK
  Oil Spill Anniversary comes as Congress Ignores Clean Energy Solutions,
                 Takes Step Towards Drilling Arctic Refuge

Washington, D.C. -- Sixteen years ago tomorrow, the Exxon Valdez ran
aground on a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, dumping 11 million
gallons of crude oil onto Alaska's shores.  The biological and economic
shocks this disaster caused are still felt to this day.  However, rather
than learn from this environmental tragedy, Congress and the current
administration, along with the oil industry, are still ignoring ways to
curb our oil dependence. Instead, they continue their push to drill in the
fragile, unspoiled wilderness of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and
are looking for ways to open up more of America's coasts.

"As we look back on the devastation of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, our
leaders should pursue the innovative clean energy solutions available today
that would reduce our oil dependence - and consequently the risk to
America's coastlines and favorite beaches," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club
Executive Director. "No matter how much of America's natural heritage we
sacrifice, we can't drill our way to energy independence. But we can use
existing technology to make all of our vehicles go farther on a gallon of
gas, and invest in clean, renewable energy."

Last Wednesday, 51 US Senators started the clock ticking for the
devastation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  But they also started
the clock ticking for every other special place that oil and gas interests
want for their own exclusive benefit -- the California, Florida and
Atlantic coasts, the Rocky Mountain Front, the Great Lakes, Otero Mesa, and
others. The push to drill the Arctic Refuge is the linchpin in a much
broader agenda where no place is off-limits to Big Oil.  Just last year,
Rep. Tom DeLay conceded that the controversy over drilling in the Refuge is
a "symbolic" debate about whether or not oil and gas drilling should be
allowed in pristine wild areas across the country and off our coasts.

Automakers have the technology to make America's vehicles - from sedans to
SUVs to pickup trucks - average 40 miles per gallon within 10 years.  This
would save more oil that we currently import from the Persian Gulf and
could ever get from the Arctic Refuge combined - more than 986 Exxon
Valdez-size tanker trips every year.  Taking this step would save consumers
money at the gas pump, cut America's oil dependence, curb the heat-trapping
pollution that causes global warming, and protect America's special places
like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"Oil companies, including ExxonMobil, know that America's energy future
does not lie in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," continued Pope.
"Americans deserve an energy policy that offers responsible, clean energy
solutions - not one that panders to corporate polluters."

Some of America's coasts, protected by a federal moratorium for more than
two decades, are increasingly vulnerable.  In Virginia, the legislature
voted recently to lift the moratorium for oil leasing off their coast. The
controversial bill, which had virtually no debate and no public notice, now
sits on Governor Mark Warner's desk.

In Florida, Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) agreed to trade his Arctic Refuge
vote last week for a mere reiteration of an earlier commitment made by
President Bush not to drill off Florida's coast for the next seven years.

"Senator Martinez essentially gave away Florida's coasts," said Pope. "His
deal is an open invitation to the oil companies: 'When you're finished in
Alaska, come on down to Florida.' Floridians want, and deserve, permanent
protection for their fragile shores, not the chance that the next big oil
spill will be off their coasts."


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