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[greenyes] Arctic National Refuge Oil Drilling
Both Sides Confident as Senate Nears Vote on Alaska Drilling

"WASHINGTON, March 13 - As the Senate neared a close vote on whether to
allow oil drilling in the Alaska wilderness, each side in the debate
expressed confidence that it would prevail.
Oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is among the highest
priorities of the Bush administration, and the Senate's switch to Republican
control after the November elections has put the drilling plan in closer
reach than last year, when the Senate rejected it, 54 to 46.

"Supporters are seeking to persuade wavering senators with an argument that
increased domestic oil production is needed more than ever on the approach
of a possible war with Iraq and with gasoline prices rising sharply.

"'In the last few months alone, our oil imports from Iraq have doubled,"
said Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican who is a leading proponent
of drilling. "We're paying Saddam Hussein billions of dollars for gasoline
and aviation fuel to send our aircraft carriers and troops to fight him.
That logic does not make sense as an energy policy."

"Republicans in Congress are preparing to bring up the drilling plan as part
of an overall budget process, a parliamentary technique that would prevent
the Democrats from blocking it with a filibuster. By doing so, Republicans
ensure that they need only a simple majority to approve the measure, rather
than the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster.

"It is unclear, however, whether they have that simple majority, and
lobbyists for drilling and against it worked furiously this week to court
potential swing votes. Of the 51 Senate Republicans, 8 have already said
they will vote against opening the refuge to drilling, but 5 Democrats have
said they will support it.

"That gives drilling supporters a solid 48 votes, both sides acknowledge.
Some Republican officials say they have secured a 49th vote and are in reach
of the 50th vote that will allow them to pass the measure, with the
tie-breaking support of Vice President Dick Cheney. They have not identified
the 49th vote.

"'It's kind of even-steven right now, but we think we can count votes better
than our opponents, and we're pretty confident," said Roger Herrera, a
consultant for Arctic Power, a pro-drilling lobbying group financed by the
State of Alaska and oil companies. "We think we can win on the merits, but
it should be pretty exciting."

"Democrats and environmental groups, who say drilling will damage the
habitat of several wilderness species, say advocates of drilling are
exaggerating their support and are unlikely to grow beyond 48 votes. But
they acknowledge that the coming vote is likely to be much closer than the
54-to-46 one last year.

"'The margin is razor-thin," said Melinda Pierce, a lobbyist for the Sierra
Club, who has been working to persuade senators to defeat the drilling
proposal. "We still think we have the votes to defeat it, but I'm not taking
any vote for granted."

"Opponents of drilling have identified 52 senators who either voted against
drilling in the past or said they would do so, said Adam Kovacevich, a
spokesman for Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat who
opposes the plan.

"But Republican officials said 4 of those 52 - Senators Mark Pryor and
Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, both Democrats, and Norm Coleman of Minnesota
and Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, both Republicans - were being heavily lobbied
to support the plan.

"Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, introduced an amendment
in the Budget Committee today to strip the drilling provision from the
budget resolution and have it come up on its own later. Such a move would
allow Democrats to filibuster the plan. But the amendment was quickly
defeated by the committee's Republican majority.

"'It's unfortunate that the drilling proponents are pushing for oil drilling
in one of our nation's natural treasures and using a back-door process to
achieve that goal," Mr. Feingold said. "The coastal plain of the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge deserves more careful management, and if we don't
protect it, we jeopardize both the plain itself and all its scenic and
habitat values, and we threaten existing wilderness previously protected by


Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

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