For weeks now, 23-year-old Israeli-born Udi Lazimy has been working to shrink the political distance between Alaska and Indiana. As a field coordinator for the nationwide Alaska Coalition, Lazimy set up shop in the Hoosier state for a campaign to prevent oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Why Indiana? L-U-G-A-R.
Udi Lazimy, field coordinator for the nationwide Alaska Coalition, says, "Lugar is the only senator who has voted with President Bush on every issue."
As a member of the agriculture and foreign relations committees, Lugar participated in a key vote last week on a rider to the budget resolution. The back-door amendment was to allow drilling in the Arctic: stoking our thirst for oil. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced an anti-drilling amendment, to the vitriolic opposition of Alaskan Sen. Ted Stevens (R), who argued that drilling would only impact a small percentage of the refuge"s acreage. After a frenzied debate complete with name-calling, the Senate voted 52-48 to remove the drilling provision from the budget - no thanks to Sen. Lugar, who voted in favor of drilling. Sen. Bayh opposed it. As environmentalists celebrated the bill"s defeat, Lazimy wondered what happened to Lugar. Despite hundreds of calls from around the state and country opposing drilling, Lugar towed the party line yet again. "Lugar is the only senator who has voted with President Bush on every issue," Lazimy said. Before the vote, it looked like Lugar could go either way. Lugar spokesman Nick Weber said, "In the past, the senator has supported very limited oil exploration, but he has also co-sponsored the Alternative Fuels Act with Sen. Daschle (D-S.D.) and he is working with Rep. Visclosky (D-Ind.) on an ethanol plant in Northwest Indiana." Lazimy concurs that the Indiana economy will benefit from investment in alternative fuels like corn-based ethanol and biodiesel. "The main issue," says Lazimy, "is Lugar"s contradictory stance, supporting conservation and a conservative energy policy on one hand, yet supporting backward movement by destroying wild places for more oil." For now, the Alaska Coalition and all the polar bears, caribou and birds can rejoice: Arctic drilling is now a dead issue in this congressional session. Lazimy says the coalition will now work to designate the refuge as a national park or secure another form of permanent protection. In celebration, the Alaska Coalition presents The Last Great Wilderness Project, a multimedia show featuring the nature photos of Jeff Barrie, and a visit from a Gwich"in Alaskan native. The free program takes place Thursday and Friday, March 27 and 28, at Holliday Park Nature Center, 6363 Spring Mill Road, from 7-9 p.m. both nights. Call (317) 685-8800 or visit www.alaskacoalition.org