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Environmental groups plan events to protest ANWR drilling
Anchorage Daily News


July 01, 2005

WASHINGTON - A coalition of environmental groups on Wednesday announced a summer of rallies, media ads and a "Don't Drill on Me" tour to block oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Americans are outraged that Congress is considering opening the refuge to drilling rigs, said Bill Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society.

"We're going to have hundreds of thousands of people this summer participating in these efforts," he predicted.

The Senate passed an energy bill this week that did not include ANWR drilling, but the prospect is very much alive in a budget bill Congress will take up in the fall, probably in September.

Both environmentalists and Arctic Power, the pro-drilling lobby the state of Alaska funds, are gearing up for that fight in the Senate, where a close vote is forecast.

Jerry Hood, who leads Arctic Power's efforts here, said he feels outgunned. The environmentalists often suggest they're fighting "Big Oil", but the oil industry has largely pulled out of Arctic Power. Hood said he has just $1.2 million from the state to work with, and little else.

"This is an Alaska grassroots effort that is minimally funded compared to our opponents," he said.

Of course, the environmentalists are also laying claim to the grassroots.

Anti-drilling organizers from all corners of the country announced themselves at Wednesday's teleconferenced press conference.

So far, Meadows said, they have coordinators in 32 states. Meadow said the Arctic Refuge Action campaign has more than $1 million already, and he didn't think it would hurt for money.

Hood didn't want to reveal too much of Arctic Power's game plan, but noted that he has labor unions on his side, and unions have affiliates nationwide.

He also has the Republican leaders in Congress and the White House.

"But we're not taking anything for granted. This is a monumental task for us," Hood said.


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Distributed by Scripps-McClatchy Western Service,

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