Senators Propose Oil Drilling in Alaska Haven : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

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By Michael Kilian Washington Bureau March 14, 2000

WASHINGTON -- Republican efforts to use public concern over skyrocketing gasoline prices as a lever to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling run the risk of a presidential veto, the Interior Department said Monday.

Last week, Alaska's Republican Sens. Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens introduced legislation that would permit oil and gas drilling and other development in 1.5 million acres of the refuge's coastal plain. A 1998 federal study estimates there are 4.3 to 11.8 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the refuge.

The two lawmakers have attempted unsuccessfully to pass such a measure several times, but voter concern over fuel prices that have jumped at least 12 cents a gallon in the last two weeks has created a far more receptive legislative climate this session. Their measure has 33 Senate co-sponsors and is gaining support in the House.

Lying east of Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oil field, the refuge occupies 19 million acres; it has long been a battlefield between oil producers and environmentalists. The latter group has so far prevailed but may be losing ground in the new fuel price crisis, which recently prompted hundreds of over-the-road truckers to rally with their rigs at the foot of Capitol Hill.

"In America right now, homeowners are struggling to pay their heating oil bills, truckers are fighting to stay in business and motorists this spring may well be boiling over prices at the pump," said Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

"We are going to continue on this roller coaster of price shocks and economic disruption until we learn from our mistakes and take action to produce more energy here at home."

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt warned that the administration opposes the move, which he likened to damming the Grand Canyon to produce hydroelectric power or opening Yosemite National Park to thermal energy drilling. He hinted the legislation faced a veto from President Clinton.

Interior Department spokeswoman Stephanie Hanna said a portion of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, lying just west of the Prudhoe Bay operation, recently has been opened to "environmentally sensitive" oil exploration and should be used instead.

At the urging of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, President Dwight Eisenhower created the refuge as the Arctic Wildlife Range in the late 1950s, setting aside some 8 million acres. In 1980, the range was expanded to 19 million acres and renamed.

Alaskans, including some Native Americans, have long pressed to have the coastal plain areas of the tract open to drilling, claiming the state will suffer economic reverses when the Prudhoe Bay field, the nation's largest, eventually runs out.

-- Tommy Rogers (Been there@Just a, March 14, 2000


This is so disgusting. They've been trying to open up this refuge since day one. Those greedy oil sucking bastards would drill for oil in their children's heads if they thought it was profitable enough.

-- gilda (, March 15, 2000.

Sure, it looks just like Yosemite.

-- jth (, March 15, 2000.

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