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Deseret 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
Associated Press

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 naught.
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 Federation.
"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 bill.
"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 resumed testing.

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 damage.”

For additional information regarding the UDPC’s position on this issue, please contact Craig Axford at (801)634-7319 or Laura Bonham at (435)640-2252.


Two running for state Democratic Party chair,
Wednesday March 02, 2005

Salt Lake Tribune

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 - Thomas Burr


Deseret 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 chairman.

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 says.

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 Publishing Company,1249,600115472,00.html

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Deseret Morning News, Friday, February 18, 2005

GOP creating Social Security scare

By Craig Axford and Laura Bonham

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 discipline.

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 Publishing Company

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For Immediate Release
Craig Axford
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 Caucus (UDPC).

“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, up and running. He can also be reached for comment at (801)485-4076.

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