arctic drilling

I can’t help but notice the publicity admonishing Sen. Susan Collins for support of a tax bill that opens the Arctic National Wildlife (ANWR) to oil drilling. Protecting wildlife habitat, local residents and the landscape are very important considerations indeed, but let’s not forget that humans worldwide are very much in need of protection from the ravages of incessant fossil fuel extraction and combustion. Our climate is changing from the burning of fossils fuels and it is making us and our planet sick.

Aside from the well-documented harm to human health, and the devastation from extreme weather events, sea-level rise, wildfires, and drought, climate change has been referred to by the Defense Department as our biggest threat multiplier. A recent CBO study requested by Collins reports that climate change is costing U.S. taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. That doesn’t include the health effects or the threat to Maine’s lobster and shrimp fisheries, forest products, and ski areas.

Making public lands such as the ANWR available for further exploration and extraction of fossil fuels is reflective and symbolic of our government’s refusal to acknowledge the reality and severity of climate change. We should not allow that.

Collins voted for an amendment disallowing ANWR drilling but it didn’t pass. It was surprising and disappointing to see those concerns overridden by politics. Some Republicans in the House had asked that the ANWR drilling be removed from the tax bill. It is time for Congressman Bruce Poliquin to get on board and evolve his energy policy away from fossil fuels and join that effort. Both Collins and Poliquin should insist that drilling in the ANWR not be allowed. Human health and habitat are at stake.

Paul Potvin, M.D.

Hampden

member, Public Health Committee Maine Medical Association

member, Climate Committee, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Maine