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 - Senate blocks attempt to allow drilling in...
Senate blocks attempt to allow drilling in Alaska wildlife refuge By H. JOSEF HEBERT Associated Press Writer WASHINGTON (AP) — The long fight over whether to drill for oil in an Alaska wildlife refuge is nowhere near an end. But attempts to open the refuge to oil development development — one of President Bush's top energy priorities priorities — received another setback Wednesday as the Senate refused to include the drilling measure in a must-pass defense spending bill. It was a huge victory for environmentalists and Senate Democrats who argued that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would jeopardize jeopardize the wild ecosystem that characterizes the refuge's coastal plain where polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other wildlife thrive. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who has fought unsuccessfully for a quarter-century to open the plain to oil drilling, had hoped to garner enough votes to overcome a threatened filibuster by attaching the measure to the defense bill that included tens of billions of dollars for troops in Iraq and for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Instead, Stevens found himself a few votes shy of getting his wish. "This has been the saddest day of my life," Stevens said. Sen. Maria Cantwell, R-Wash., an ardent | defender of the refuge who led anti-drilling forces 'during the Senate debate, called Stevens' tactic "legislative blackmail" and "trickery" that united ^Democrats on the issue. Republican leaders fell three votes short of the ;60 votes needed to break the filibuster threat and advance the defense spending bill to a final vote, forcing GOP leaders to temporarily withdraw the Ibill and take out the drilling provision. The official official vote was 56-44, four short, because Majority iLeader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a supporter of drilling, ; voted with those opposing it so he would have the right to ask the Senate to reconsider the issue in a second vote later. ; Hours later, the Senate stripped the Alaska drilling language from the defense legislation, then passed the bill and sent it to the House, which was scheduled to reconvene Thursday afternoon. The House earlier had passed the defense spending bill with the Alaska drilling provision in it. Before the vote, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, charged that the military was "being held hostage by this issue, Arctic drilling." But Stevens, 82, the Senate's most senior member known for his sometimes cantankerous nature and fiery temper, had no apologies. "Every time this subject comes up ... the minority has filibustered," Stevens complained, reminding colleagues of his 25-year campaign to get Congress to allow development of an estimated estimated 10 billion barrels of oil beneath ANWR's tundra. tundra. After the vote, Democrats and environmentalists environmentalists celebrated, knowing they had tangled with one of the Senate's toughest members and won. "It took a lot of guts for a lot of people to stand up," Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said after the vote. He said he expects the senators who opposed drilling — all but four Democrats as well as GOP Sens. Mike DeWine of Ohio and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island — not to yield to further pressures and change their vote later. For no one believes the issue, which has galvanized galvanized environmentalists determined to protect the refuge from development, is going away. "I expect to see it again next year," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a longtime drilling opponent. opponent. "Yes, it'll be back," Lieberman agreed. The question of whether to allow oil companies companies to explore and tap the refuge's oil has been one of the most contentious environmental fights for decades. While drilling proposals have been passed as part of broad energy legislation in the House, each time it was blocked by the Senate, where Democrats threatened a filibuster. Congress did approve ANWR drilling in 1995 as part of a budget package that was immune from Senate filibuster, but President Clinton vetoed it. This year Republican leaders tacked an ANWR provision onto a deficit reduction package, package, only to see the language killed in the House. In response, Stevens, chairman of the Appropriations Appropriations subcommittee handling defense spending, turned to the defense bill, hoping it would have enough support to avert a successfully filibuster threat over the Alaska refuge. Environmentalists viewed it as the most serious serious threat to the refuge in years. "Drilling proponents pulled out all the stops, and tried every trick in their playbook," Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said. "This is a tremendous victory for all Americans and proof that the fate of the Arctic refuge must be debated on its merits, not as part of a sneak attack." Those who advocate drilling said the oil — an estimated 1 million barrels a day during peak production production — is needed for national security to reduce the country's dependence on imports. Drilling opponents say ANWR's oil would take years to develop and do little to curtail imports. But drilling opponents argued that ANWR's oil should not be exploited because of the coastal plain's fragile ecosystem and wildlife. While the region looks bleak during its long winters, and oil can be seen seeping from some of its rock formations, formations, the coastal strip also is the calving ground for caribou and home to polar bears, musk oxen, and the annual influx of millions of migratory birds. "Destroying this wilderness will do very little to reduce energy costs nor does it do very much for oil independence," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Feinstein, D-Calif. On the Net: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: http://arc- tic.fws.gov/

Clipped from Tyrone Daily Herald22 Dec 2005, ThuPage 2

Tyrone Daily Herald (Tyrone, Pennsylvania)22 Dec 2005, ThuPage 2
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