By LIZ RUSKIN
May 23, 2006
WASHINGTON - The chairman of the House Resources Committee has filed another bill to accomplish what so many prior bills have failed to do: open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
Recent strategies to get an ANWR bill through a reluctant Senate have involved mixed marriages - ANWR and the budget, or ANWR and the defense bill. Rep. Richard Pombo's latest proposal, on the other hand, is a standalone bill dealing only with ANWR. That leaves it wide open to filibuster in the Senate.
"There's always the chance that Sen. (Ted) Stevens and other like-minded senators could get the three votes they need to move forward and pass it with a filibuster-proof majority," said Brian Kennedy, spokesman for Pombo, R-Calif.
The Republican-dominated House has passed ANWR legislation repeatedly in the last five years, with the help of about 30 Democrats. A majority of senators have also voted to drill in the refuge, but Stevens and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, have fallen a few voted short of the 60 they need to block a filibuster, a fatal procedural delay.
ANWR, drilling proponents note, could produce a million barrels of oil a day. Environmentalists say the amount is insignificant when you consider the United States is already burning nearly 21 million barrels a day.
Melinda Pierce, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, said she's not surprised to see the Republicans trot out an ANWR bill just before Memorial Day weekend and the start of the so-called summer driving season. It's an attempt to show that they are doing something about high gas prices, she said.
"I think it's a bit of red meat for their base," she said.
Kennedy acknowledged the bill has a political purpose.
"It puts the House on record yet again and shows the American public that yet again the Republican majority is trying to do something about energy supply," he said.
The House is likely to debate the bill this week, maybe Thursday.
Scripps-McClatchy Western Service, http://www.shns.com
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