- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2001

The White House yesterday said oil drilling in Alaskas arctic will be included in their energy plan, and dismissed contrary statements by the administrations environmental chief as "confusion."
"The presidents position is as it always has been," said Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman, reiterating a campaign promise by President Bush to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas exploration.
"The president believes that our nation needs to develop more energy resources domestically in order to avoid worsening the current energy crisis, and toward that end, the energy proposal that will be shortly submitted from the vice presidents task force will include a provision calling for the opening of a small portion of ANWR for energy development," Mr. Fleischer said.
Christie Todd Whitman, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, responded Sunday to a Time magazine article that said the White House would not seek the congressional consent needed to open the refuge to drilling.
Mrs. Whitman said the task force report due next month "didnt specifically say you must drill in ANWR."
"We didnt recommend that to the president," Mrs. Whitman said.
Shortly after making those comments on "Face the Nation," Mrs. Whitman clarified her statement saying drilling was still an option, but the task force would not include specifics on where to drill.
Asked by reporters if Mrs. Whitman "is out of the loop" on the administrations policy, Mr. Fleischer said, "there was some confusion in the early morning" as the result of Time magazine story but "that confusion was resolved."
A spokeswoman for Mrs. Whitman said yesterday she "made it very clear we need diverse supplies from all of our resources to get us through this energy crisis."
This is the second time in only a few weeks Mrs. Whitman has appeared at odds with administration policy.
Last month, Mrs. Whitman said the administration was committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, only to be corrected a few days later.
Mr. Bush reversed a campaign promise and said he would not seek mandatory regulations on carbon dioxide, which some scientists say is a factor in global warming.
"Its the exact same pattern," said Bonner Cohen, a Lexington Institute senior fellow. "The administration needs to work on its communication."
Meanwhile, 40 Capitol Hill lawmakers opposed to drilling will send a letter to Mr. Bush today asking him to support legislation that would designate ANWR a wilderness area and ban all development and most recreation.
"Of all the measures you could possibly choose to make the centerpiece of national energy policy, drilling in the refuge is most certain to evoke a strong, vigorous negative reaction in Congress," said the letter circulated by Reps. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, and Nancy L. Johnson, Connecticut Republican.
House debate on opening ANWR is expected to begin this summer, said Marnie Funk, spokeswoman for Rep. James V. Hansen, Utah Republican and chairman of the Resources Committee.
"This is the course that has been laid out from the beginning, and the White House has been very supportive because this is part of the presidents game plan," Miss Funk said.
If drilling is approved by the House, it faces an uphill battle in the closely divided Senate, where several Northeastern Republicans say they oppose oil and gas exploration.

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