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Senate Rejects Arctic Drilling Bid

Supporters vow to press ahead with efforts to unlock oil and gas reserves in Alaskan refuge

by Glenn Hess
December 23, 2005

Advocates of oil and natural gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) are promising to renew their efforts in the coming months after the Senate on Dec. 21 narrowly rejected a provision that would have authorized exploration and drilling on Alaska's northern coastal plain.

A Democratic-led filibuster blocked an attempt by drilling supporters to include ANWR leasing in the fiscal 2006 Defense Department appropriations bill. Republicans fell several votes short of the 60 needed to cut off debate on the legislation.

ANWR, which is estimated to hold as much as 10 billion barrels of oil, has been the subject of a bitter battle in Congress for more than two decades. Drilling supporters say they will continue to fight.

"This issue is too important to our consumers and our economy to accept defeat," says Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.). He says he will put the ANWR drilling language in filibuster-proof budget legislation in the spring.

"ANWR remains one of my top priorities. Developing more of our own energy is the right thing to do for our economy, our consumers, and our security. I'm not walking away from this challenge," Domenici remarks.

Drilling opponents insist the refuge and its assortment of wildlife should be protected. "We successfully stopped drilling in the Arctic for now, but we will remain vigilant next year to make sure that the country focuses its energy on real solutions to our over dependence on foreign oil and not Christmas packages for the oil companies," says Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

After the vote, American Chemistry Council President Jack N. Gerard urged lawmakers to address the nation's "unfinished" energy agenda. "While opening ANWR to exploration would result in new, much-needed energy resources a decade from now, American consumers and businesses are being hit today by an immediate energy problem: soaring natural gas prices and impending supply shortages," he notes. "Congress must come to grips with our nation's long-term and short-term energy needs."



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