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(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) spoke on the Senate floor in an effort to protect America's national monuments from energy exploration. Murray spoke in favor of the Durbin Amendment offered by Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill). The amendment, of which Murray is also a cosponsor, passed the Senate in a vote after Murray's speech. This amendment to the Interior Appropriations Bill prohibits new energy exploration on national monument lands. It would not stop any energy production or leases that existed before the land was designated a national monument.

Senator Murray's complete speech follows:

Madame President, I rise in support of the Durbin Amendment to protect our national monuments from energy exploration. I'm pleased to be a cosponsor of this important amendment, and I thank Senator Durbin for offering it. But the truth is, we shouldn't need an amendment to protect our country's national monuments from energy exploration.

These unique landscapes, including the Hanford Reach National Monument in my home state of Washington, were designated as national monuments because they are important in their own right and deserve to be protected.

We shouldn't need an additional amendment to keep oil derricks out of them, but unfortunately, that's where we find ourselves today. The Bush Administration has proposed exploring for energy even in our national monuments. I can tell you that many of my constituents are asking: "Is nothing sacred anymore?"

Drilling in our national monuments is just wrong, and this amendment says the federal government should not promote energy exploration on our most precious lands.

Madame President, I recognize the need to find new sources of energy. In fact, the federal government has always actively promoted the extraction of new energy resources. This can and will continue. During the Clinton Administration, thousands of new drilling permits were issued for federal lands. And since the early 1980s, the production of natural gas on federal land has been increasing steadily.

Efforts to find energy on our federal lands must continue, but attempts to find energy in our national monuments must never begin. Currently, 95 percent of Bureau of Land Management lands in the western states are open to coal, oil and gas leasing. We don't need to open up our national monuments as well.

Madame President, I realize this is a challenging time because today we face an energy crisis. In Washington state, we are experiencing dramatic rate increases because of many factors including a drought, too little energy production, and a spike in natural gas prices. Right now, thousands of my constituents are out of work because of high energy costs. No one needs to tell us in Washington that we've got to increase our energy production.

We know we need to increase our capacity, and that's what we're doing. We're working to site new generation capacity. On the Oregon and Washington border, we are constructing the country's largest wind farm. We have natural gas plants going up, and we have a proposal for a coal-fired plant. We're also upgrading our transmission system to deliver new generation supplies. We know what we need to do and we are taking action, but we know we don't need to drill for oil or natural gas in our national monuments.

The Hanford Reach National Monument is a national treasure. It includes the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River. It is the most productive spawning ground for threatened salmon in the entire Columbia River Basin. It is home to threatened sage grouse and to two plant and 40 insect species that are new to science. And the Hanford Reach National Monument also includes and borders important historic and cultural features. The area is rich in important Native American, early pioneer, and nuclear production history. The Hanford Reach National Monument may be the most unique monument in the country.

Madame President, before I conclude I want to address one comment. Some have suggested that the national monument designations by President Clinton were made quickly, without public involvement, and without consideration of energy production values. That is simply not true.

I have been working since my first year in the Senate to protect the Hanford Reach. I introduced legislation in the previous three Congresses to protect this area. We held numerous public meetings, talked with local leaders, and debated many different proposals. The Administration had eight years of knowledge developed by the consideration of various protection proposals. The plans considered irrigation and farming, and the potential for gas just outside the monument's boundaries. The plans also considered commercial development of lands by ports, cities, and counties. In fact, the final designation even included provisions ensuring a new right-of-way for energy transmission lines to go across the Hanford Reach. All of those considerations helped define the final boundaries of the monument. So for some to suggest now that we never thought about our future energy needs is just wrong.

In the end, the final decision was that the ecological and historical values of the Reach merited protection as a national monument. We knew what we were doing by the designation. We knew we were choosing to protect unique and vital habitats. We knew we were honoring important cultural sites. We intended to leave this legacy to future generations.

Protecting certain areas for generations to come is an admirable goal. These designations were made after full consideration. This Congress should not undermine these legacies in favor of the energy industry. We should not have to fight back these attacks on our limited protected lands. Madame President, I urge my colleagues to protect our national monuments. Let's preserve these ecological and historical treasures for future generations.