Bush says US may open national monuments to exploration

President George W. Bush said Wednesday his administration could consider allowing oil and gas drilling on national monument lands, areas currently off limits to exploration. Bush made the comments during a meeting with reporters at the White House.


By the OGJ Online Staff

WASHINGTON, DC, Mar. 15�President George W. Bush said Wednesday his administration could consider allowing oil and gas drilling on national monument lands, areas currently off limits to exploration.

Bush made the comments during a meeting with reporters at the White House.

The President was asked if the administration is unable to persuade Congress to allow drilling on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska, would policymakers �turn to the American West to increase domestic production?�

Bush said, �We need to go to both ANWR and the American West. We need to go to where there are gas reserves. And there are a lot of bottlenecks. One is, there's a mentality that says you can't explore and protect land. We're going to change that attitude. You can explore and protect land.�

The President noted that some national monuments cover a lot of land. �There are parts of the monument lands where we can explore without affecting the overall environment.�

He added, �We'll be looking at all public lands. Obviously, there are some places where we're not going to put a drilling rig, some of the crown jewels of our environment. But there are some lands that are, to me, suitable for exploration.�

Bush said he strongly favored ANWR drilling, which he said could be conducted with minimal environmental impact by using horizontal wells drilled from ice pads.

He said the US needs more pipelines to move gas to markets, additional electric generation plants, expanded electric transmission systems, and greater use of coal for electric generation.

Wilderness Society President William Meadows criticized Bush�s remarks. Meadows said the statement that the administration will consider oil and gas drilling on "all public lands," including national monuments, shows he is "both uncommitted to protecting our natural heritage and unaware of the vast acreage of federal lands already available for energy production.

"The President has made it clear from the start that he wants to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and certain portions of the Rockies," said Meadows. "But we are dismayed that he is now talking about turning the oil industry loose on virtually all the lands in our national forests, national wildlife refuges, and other public systems. This is an extreme idea. We're beginning to wonder if James Watt is whispering in his ear," he said, referring to the Interior Secretary who served from 1981 to 1983 and urged drilling in wilderness areas.

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