News - Senate OKs plan to allow oil wells in Alaska refuge - Thursday,
March 17, 2005
Senate OKs plan to allow
oil wells in Alaska refuge
By H. Josef Hebert
WASHINGTON — A closely divided
Senate voted Wednesday to approve oil drilling in an Alaska wildlife
refuge, a major victory for President Bush and a stinging defeat for
environmentalists who have fought the idea for decades.
By a 51-49 vote, the Senate put a refuge drilling provision in next
year's budget, depriving opponents of the chance to use a filibuster
to try to block it. Filibusters, which require 60 votes to overcome,
have been used to defeat drilling proposals in the past.
"This project will keep our economy growing by creating jobs and
ensuring that businesses can expand," Bush said in a statement.
"And it will make America less dependent on foreign sources of
energy, eventually by up to a million barrels of oil a day."
Utah's Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett favor opening the
preserve to drilling. Their votes drew criticism from the Utah Democratic
Progressive Caucus. "If the current administration and Republicans
in Congress were serious about reducing our reliance on foreign oil,
they would aggressively pursue improvements to automobile fuel efficience,
said Craig Axford, co-chairman of the UDPC.
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who has fought for 24 years to open the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil companies, acknowledged it still
could be "a long process" before a final drilling measure
clears Congress. Lawmakers must agree on the final budget, something
they failed to do last year, or Wednesday's vote would have been for
Also, the House did not include an Arctic refuge measure in its budget,
a difference that will have to be worked out in future negotiations.
Nevertheless, the Senate made clear by Wednesday's vote that a majority
now supports tapping what is believed to be 10.4 billion or more barrels
of oil within the refuge's 1.5 million-acre coastal plain, said Sen.
Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. Two years ago, a similar attempt to use the
budget process to open the refuge failed by three votes.
But that was before Republicans last November expanded their majority,
adding a number of GOP senators who favor drilling. Only seven Republicans,
all moderates, bucked their party Wednesday and voted with most Democrats
against opening the refuge.
Environmentalists said while the vote was disappointing, they haven't
given up the fight. "It only strengthens our resolve to protect
America's most pristine national wildlife refuge for our children's
future," said Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife
"The battle is far from over," said Lexi Keogh of the Alaska
Wilderness League. She said environmentalists will push to keep the
ANWR provision out of a final budget document.
The oil industry has sought for more than two decades to get access
to the oil. In 1980, Congress said the oil could be developed, but only
if lawmakers specifically authorized the Interior Department to sell
oil leases. Repeatedly Congress has failed to do so.
Environmentalists for years have fought such development, contending
it would lead to a spider web of drilling platforms, pipelines and roads
that would adversely impact the calving grounds of caribou, polar bears
and millions of migratory birds that use the refuge's coastal plain.
"The fact is it's going to be destructive," Sen. John Kerry,
D-Mass., said during debate on an amendment that would have stripped
the drilling language from the budget measure. Democrats fell two votes
short of the 51 needed.
Kerry and other drilling opponents argued that more oil would be saved
than ANWR could produce if Congress enacted an energy policy focusing
on conservation and more efficient cars and trucks and increased reliance
on renewable fuels.
Drilling supporters countered that the refuge's oil can be pumped while
still protecting the environment and wildlife.
Modern technology, drilling techniques and environmental restrictions
would dramatically limit the industrial footprint that would be left
on the tundra and protect wildlife, said Murkowski. "We know we've
got to do it right. . . . It's a fragile environment."
One GOP senator after another argued that with foreign imports accounting
for more than half of the oil the country uses, every available barrel
should be pursued. The Alaska refuge represents the largest potential
onshore oil find in the country, they said.
"Some people say we ought to conserve more. They say we ought to
conserve instead of producing this oil. But we need to do everything.
We have to conserve and produce where we can," said Sen. Pete Domenici,
R-N.M., chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
But drilling opponents rejected the suggestion that ANWR's oil would
have much impact on global markets, today's high oil and gasoline prices,
or the continued U.S. reliance on foreign producers.
"We won't see this oil for 10 years. It will have minimal impact,"
argued Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. It is "foolish to say oil development
and a wildlife refuge can coexist."
Cantwell and other Democrats accused Republicans of trying "an
end run" by attaching the refuge provisions to the budget, saying
the question of drilling in an ecologically pristine refuge —
a "special place" as many environmentalists called it —
should be debated as separate legislation or as part of a broad energy
"It's the only way around the filibuster," countered Stevens,
defending the use of the budget process. He said that approach is justified
for issues that have special importance such as getting at ANWR's oil,
something he characterized as a matter of "national security."
Progressive Caucus Leaders Critical
of Cannon’s Position on Nuclear Testing
March 9, 2005
Chris Cannon’s recent statements about resumed nuclear testing
(March 9 Salt Lake tribune & March 2 interview on KCPW) make it
4 to 1 among Utah’s Congressmen in support of development of new
and unnecessary nuclear arms and their testing. Craig Axford, Co-Chair
of the Utah Democratic Progressive Caucus (UDPC) and candidate for Chair
of the Utah Democratic Party commented, “Only Jim Matheson has
represented the majority of Utahn’s in their opposition to these
tests. Only Jim Matheson has submitted legislation to Congress that
would place numerous roadblocks to testing in the path of the Department
of Energy. However, Jim Matheson’s family is not the only Utah
family that has been harmed by past atmospheric and underground nuclear
tests.” Axford and the UDPC have campaigned vigorously against
The record shows that all underground tests have a high probability
of going atmospheric and at least half of them did. Some serious questions
need answers before we allow history to repeat itself. Shall we as a
nation begin down this horrible road again under the premise of national
defense when it has such potential to destroy American lives within
our own borders? There is no data to suggest that Nuclear Robust Earth
Penetrators will do a better job than the existing non-nuclear bunker
busters currently in our arsenals. Do we want to start another nuclear
arms race like the one following the Manhattan Project? What is to stop
other countries that signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty from dropping
out or ignoring its terms to start developing their own nuclear arsenals?
Laura Bonham, Co-Chair of the UDPC and Vice Chair candidate said “All
Utahns, whether Democrat or Republican, need to stand up behind Jim
Matheson and his Safety for Americans from Nuclear Weapons Testing Act.
All Utahns should stand with the family’s who have suffered from
nuclear fallout in the past. Resumed nuclear testing will not build
a bridge to peaceful co-existence among countries in the 21st century.
It is far more likely to tear it down and carry us back in history to
a very dark time when Utahns were considered no more than collateral
For additional information regarding the UDPC’s position on this
issue, please contact Craig Axford at (801)634-7319 or Laura Bonham
for state Democratic Party chair,
Wednesday March 02, 2005
Two Democrats have announced intentions to run for state party chairman.
Chairman Donald Dunn says he will not run for the position again when
his term ends this summer, prompting former Attorney General Paul Van
Dam and activist Craig Axford to say they want the seat. "It is
essential that Utah Democrats select an individual for the chair position
who has the experience and vision needed to build bridges within our
own party and ensure a bright future by serving as a clear voice of
reason and moderation in Utah politics," Van Dam said in a statement.
Van Dam has been involved in politics stretching back three decades,
including serving as Salt Lake County district attorney and state attorney
general. He ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah,
last year. Axford, co-chairman of the Utah Democratic Progressive Caucus,
also has worked in several positions, including as program director
of the Utah Environmental Congress. He is a former leader of the Green
Party of Utah. "I believe the Democratic Party is at a crossroads"
Axford said in a statement. "If we are to begin moving toward a
new Democratic majority in Utah we need leadership willing to stand
up for Democratic values such as fiscal responsibility, a living wage
for every working man and woman in Utah and universal health care coverage."
Axford has set up a Web site at http://www.axfordforchair.org.
- Thomas Burr
Morning News, Tuesday, March 01, 2005
2 seek to lead Demos
Former Utah Attorney
General Paul Van Dam and Democratic Progressive Caucus leader Craig
Axford are the first Utah Democrats to announce their bid for party
Current party chair Donald Dunn announced last month that he will not
run for re-election.
Van Dam, as his press release states, is "the only living Democrat
to win a statewide election against a Republican incumbent," having
won the attorney general office in 1988. Prior to that he served as
Salt Lake County district attorney and last year ran unsuccessfully
for Bob Bennett's U.S. Senate seat.
Axford, a former member of Utah's Green Party, has been both a Democrat
and co-chairman of the Utah Democratic Progressive Caucus since 2003.
"I believe the Democratic Party is at a crossroads," says
Axford. "If we are to begin moving toward a new Democratic majority
in Utah, we need leadership willing to stand up for Democratic values
such as fiscal responsibility, a living wage for every working man and
woman in Utah, and universal health care coverage."
The party, he says, "too often circles the wagons and shoots inward."
Democrats are often seen attacking each other in the press "over
issues that frankly don't matter much to the average voter," he
Van Dam says Utah Democrats need a leader "who has the experience
and vision needed to build bridges within our own party and ensure a
bright future by serving as a clear voice of reason and moderation."
The filing period for party chairman begins today and runs through March
31. Democratic delegates will choose their new leader at the state party
convention May 7.
© 2005 Deseret News
Morning News, Friday, February 18, 2005
GOP creating Social Security
By Craig Axford and Laura
On Feb. 10, Sen. Bob Bennett gave a speech on the floor of the U.S.
Senate. His purpose was to foster the crisis mentality President Bush
and many Republicans are trying to create in order to justify partial
corporatization of Social Security.
To prove his point, Bennett made several arguments to justify his contention
that a Social Security nightmare is just over the horizon. First and
foremost he contended that over the next few decades, a $1.5 trillion
hole in the Social Security budget will develop that must be filled
if we are to continue providing our seniors with the benefits they are
entitled to under the current system.
To any average working American, $1.5 trillion is a lot of money. So
much, in fact, it is difficult for us to even comprehend. But to America
as a nation, a $1.5 trillion obligation spread over many decades is
not much. It would be even less of a burden had this Congress and this
president not started us down the road of record deficits through a
combination of tax cuts for the wealthy and complete lack of fiscal
To put this whole "crisis" in complete perspective, we need
only consider the recent Social Security Trustees report, which describes
the condition of the trust fund over the next 75 years. According to
the report, trust fund assets will peak at $2.3 trillion dollars in
2017. After 2017, we begin to draw down this surplus in order to continue
providing full benefits to retirees and other eligible recipients. Without
any intervention, it will take us until 2042 to exhaust these $2.3 trillion
in accumulated assets.
Looking out over the whole planning horizon of 75 years, the Social
Security trust fund has obligations through 2078 totaling $3.7 trillion.
The difference between the accumulated assets stored up in the fund
in preparation for the wave of baby-boomer retirees headed our way ($2.3
trillion) and this larger $3.7 trillion cumulative obligation through
2078 is $1.4 trillion, and this is presumably what accounts for the
gap Bennett and others are referring to when discussing the $1.5 trillion
hole in the trust fund budget.
For Bennett, President Bush and others to argue the need to find $1.5
trillion over the next 75 years or so amounts to a crisis demonstrates
an almost complete detachment from reality. The United States currently
has a $12 trillion annual economy. In addition, the president has just
proposed a budget for the 2006 fiscal year alone totaling $2.5 trillion,
fully $1 trillion more than we would need to raise over the next three
quarters of the 21st century to ensure Social Security's stability.
The repeal of just 20-25 percent of Bush's tax cuts would bring in more
than sufficient revenue to maintain Social Security benefits at current
levels well beyond the lifetime of any American currently in the work
force. Alternatively, raising the cap on eligible income from $90,000
to $120,000 would also help to ensure the viability of the trust fund
over the same period.
The source of the Republican Party's pessimism regarding the stability
of Social Security and their inability to fix any problems it faces,
short of corporatization, comes from their desire to dismantle completely
America's already frayed social safety net. If, in the process, they
can funnel billions of taxpayer dollars in fees and commissions into
the pockets of Wall Street investors, which are returned as campaign
donations, so much the better. There is no other explanation for a major
alteration that will cost almost as much over the next decade as minor
adjustments would over the next seven decades.
To the extent Americans need to be urgently considering the Social Security
question at all, attention is best paid to the growing national debt.
Because the Social Security surplus is currently invested in bonds,
the government will be required to begin paying back what it has borrowed
from the trust fund in 2018.
The president has created a crisis where none existed before he came
to office. If, indeed, their true intent is to preserve the integrity
of the trust fund and protect America's economic future as a whole,
Bennett and other members of the Republican caucus would do well to
focus their attention on tax and spending policies, which are quickly
creating a fiscal "crisis" in their own right.
Craig Axford and Laura
Bonham are co-chairmen of the Utah Democratic Progressive Caucus.
© 2005 Deseret News
For Immediate Release
Announces Candidacy for
Democratic State Party Chair
February 17, 2005
Craig Axford will be
filing paperwork this week with the Utah Democratic Party announcing
his intention to seek the position of State Party Chair at the upcoming
party convention scheduled for May 7. Craig has worked in a variety
of positions running the No on Proposition 5 campaign in 1998, serving
as Coordinator for a non-profit environmental group and later as Program
Director of the Utah
Environmental Congress. Since 2003 Craig has been the co-chair of
the Utah Democratic Progressive
“I believe the
Democratic Party is at a crossroads” Mr. Axford says. “If
we are to begin moving toward a new Democratic Majority in Utah we need
leadership willing to stand up for Democratic values such as fiscal
responsibility, a living wage for every working man and woman in Utah,
and universal health care coverage.”
Axford also believes
the Democratic Party too often circles the wagons and shoots inward.
“We need state party leaders willing to bring all Democrats together
behind issues that matter to working people. Instead we frequently see
Democrats attacking each other in the press over issues that frankly
don’t matter much to the average voter.”
The Craig Axford for
Chair campaign will soon have a website, AxfordforChair.org up and running.
He can also be reached for comment at (801)485-4076.