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[greenyes] Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Update
NEW YORK TIMES - 3/18/03
Republicans Resigned to Defeat on Alaska Wildlife Refuge Drilling Plan

WASHINGTON, March 17 - Senate Republican officials said today that they had
been unable to muster enough votes to begin oil drilling in the Alaska
wildlife refuge, probably dooming the signature energy plan of the Bush

"A vote on the drilling plan will probably take place by Friday or early
next week, and lobbying groups in favor of oil production in Alaska say they
have not given up hope of achieving a slim Senate majority. But Republican
officials say they are not counting on more than 48 votes for drilling in
the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"At this point, we don't have the 50 votes, and I don't think we're going to
get them," a Republican official said. "So the Democrats will probably be
able to strip it out."

"Such a vote would be an embarrassment for the Bush administration, which
came into office in 2001 vowing to reverse President Bill Clinton's refusal
to permit drilling in the refuge. It was unable to get the measure through
the Senate last year, when it was controlled by Democrats. After the
Republicans took control of the Senate in January, administration officials
hoped for a different result, but they said at least eight Republicans and
most Democrats remained opposed to the plan.

"Supporters of drilling said they had hoped to take advantage of rising oil
prices and a potential war with Iraq to argue that the United States needs
more domestic oil production to free itself from sources in the Middle East.
In Congressional testimony on Wednesday, Gale A. Norton, the interior
secretary, called the area "flat, white nothingness" and said it represented
the nation's greatest potential for future oil.

"Our reliance on foreign oil has impacts on the lives of American families,
farmers and workers as the current gasoline price increase shows," Ms.
Norton said. "As long as we have planes, trains and automobiles powered by
oil and gas, we will need a homegrown, stable, reliable source of supply."

"But drilling in the refuge remains highly unpopular in public opinion
polls, a result of years of efforts by environmental groups to depict oil
production as disastrous to an unspoiled and fragile area that is home to
many wildlife species. Opponents also say the refuge would not produce
enough oil to justify the effort, and oil companies have not been nearly as
enthusiastic about the prospect as the Bush administration or the government
of Alaska.
"It has never made sense to drill for oil there, and citizens from around
the country have made their views on that clear to their senators," said
Gene Karpinski, executive director of the U.S. Public Interest Research
Group, an advocacy association that has lobbied heavily against the plan.

"But Mr. Karpinski added that he was nervous about declaring victory because
Republicans might have more senators on their side than they were revealing.
"We remain cautiously optimistic that a majority of the Senate opposes
drilling," he said. "But of course we'll be working overtime till the
question is called, to ensure that we get the votes we need."

"The drilling plan is in the 2004 budget resolution that the Senate began
debating today. It is a measure that sets the overall revenues and spending
limits for the coming fiscal year. Democrats plan to propose an amendment
that would delete the reference to drilling, and Republicans will need 50
votes to stop the amendment. But at this point, Republicans say they have
only 48.

"If the drilling plan is removed from the budget process, Republicans will
not be able to raise it again without encountering a Democratic filibuster,
which requires 60 votes to stop. Last week, Republicans said they were
hoping to persuade four senators - Mark Pryor and Blanche L. Lincoln of
Arkansas, both Democrats, and Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Gordon H. Smith
of Oregon, both Republicans - to change their earlier stance and support
drilling. But the senators said through spokesmen that they remained opposed
to drilling in the refuge.

"The senator has said he would meet with both sides and the supporters gave
him brochures, but he has not been convinced," said Mr. Pryor's spokesman,
Rodell Mollineau. "He said during the campaign that he didn't believe
drilling was good for the environment or would meet our national energy
needs, and that hasn't changed."


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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