September 13, 2008

Arizona Dems Urge Congress to Reject Oil-Drilling Expansion

By Jeremy Duda

With Congress expected to unveil a new energy bill soon, several Democratic legislators are voicing their opinions that the bill needs to include opposition to mass offshore oil drilling, and they're urging Arizona voters to do the same.

Reps. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, and Steve Farley, D-Tucson, attended a recent conference of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators in Portland, Ore., and on their return they spoke out on what they hope to see in the upcoming congressional proposal, which they expect U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to introduce next week.

At the top of their list is a balanced energy policy that focuses on investment in clean, renewable energy sources while rejecting large-scale domestic oil drilling in coastal areas. With gasoline prices surpassing $4 a gallon in some parts of the country, offshore drilling has become a bone of contention, with many Republicans urging more drilling to lower prices at the gas pumps.

"We want to emphasize the importance of not focusing on oil and not relying on drilling for the energy plan for America's future," Sinema said at the group's press conference Sept. 10 outside the state House of Representatives. "We all know that the oil supply, not only in our country but around the world, is very limited, and if we don't start transitioning to clean, renewable energy sources we will not only see a continued increase for cost for consumers, but we'll also see a decrease in availability of long-term energy solutions for our country."

Representatives from the Arizona Solar Energy Industries Association, American Solar Electric and the Solar Alliance stood by as Farley touted the expansion of tax credits for companies that use solar-power technology. The group of legislators was flanked by representatives of the Sierra Club and the Arizona League of Conservation Voters.

While asking Congress to prevent major expansion of oil drilling in coastal regions and support alternative energy sources, the legislators also urged Arizona voters to cast their ballots in November for candidates who support environmentally friendly policies.

"Above all, I want every voter in... this country to be asking of all their candidates at every level, whether it's Congress or the Legislature or the president, 'What are you going to do to stop our dependency on oil?'" Farley said. "Their vote should depend on their answer to that question."

The legislators acknowledged that the upcoming legislation in Congress is likely to include provisions for a minor expansion of oil drilling in coastal areas. Sinema said any such expansion should serve as a bridge to long-term solutions involving clean, renewable energy.

The legislators also voiced their support for the Western Climate Initiative, a collaborative effort by several Western states and Canadian provinces to develop a regional plan for curbing pollution and dealing with climate change. Farley said the group still is working on some details of the agreement, but they hope to release a statement sometime in the next couple weeks.

"Once we enter into this agreement, it is up to us as legislators to make sure that the policies are implemented, that we follow the rules, that we're working with the other states and Canadian provinces (that) entered into this agreement, and make sure that we live up to the reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions that we're setting over the next 10, 15, 20 years," Campbell said.

Originally published by Jeremy Duda.

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