Clinton won't make Alaska's ANWR a national monument

President Bill Clinton will not designate the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a national monument, a spokesman said Wednesday. The administration said the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Act currently gives ANWR more protection against development than monument status would.


President Bill Clinton will not designate the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a national monument, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Press aide Jake Siewert told reporters, "The President does not intend to designate that as a national monument. We oppose efforts to drill in ANWR and he vetoed a budget bill in 1995, in part because it would have opened the refuge to oil drilling.

"But we believe, actually, after consulting with our environmental team, that ... ANWR has something that some of the other areas we looked at do not have, which is legislative protected status, which is actually higher than that conferred by the monuments."

Alaska's congressmen had been concerned that Clinton might use the 1906 Antiquities Act to prevent development of the 1.5-million-acre coastal plain. They said the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Act precluded development unless Congress authorized it, and blocked the President from creating more national monuments in the state unless approved by Congress (OGJ, July 17, 2000, p. 28).

Siewert said that law "confers a higher degree of status, a wilderness status, to that land and specifically prevents oil drilling there. So we're not convinced that giving it a monument status would give it any additional legal protection."

"A monument is, after all, an executive action that could potentially be reversed by a new administration; whereas the congressional designation is legislation that has to be reopened and subject to a full congressional debate, subject to filibuster, and it would be very hard to open it up to drilling, given the narrow split ... that exists in Congress today."

He observed, "Congress has steadfastly opposed efforts to open ANWR throughout Democratic and Republican control in the Senate. So we think it's very unlikely that Congress will allow ANWR to be opened for drilling. They defeated it in the 1980s and 1990s and we think they'll continue to oppose that and we think that's the right course of action. This is a very pristine wilderness area and shouldn't be an area where there is new oil drilling."

President-elect George W. Bush advocated exploration on the coastal plain during his campaign and his administration is expected to ask Congress to authorize leasing.

Siewert said, "Obviously, that's something that they will be free to try to do. But they're going to have to go through Congress to do it, and we don't think Congress would be wise to open that area to drilling."

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