- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2001

House Democrats yesterday failed to kill the centerpiece of President Bush's energy plan — further oil drilling in the Alaskan arctic.
An amendment in the House Resources Committee to strip the drilling provision from the House version of Mr. Bush's energy plan failed 29-19, with five Democrats crossing party lines to support drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
The Democrats' alternative to the Republican energy plan also excluded drilling and failed on a 20-29 vote, with three Democrats siding with Republicans.
"After many years of fundamentally ignoring America's future energy security, we are about to take a giant leap in ensuring the availability of inexpensive and environmentally friendly energy for this and future generations," said Rep. Billy Tauzin, Louisiana Republican.
The whole plan passed the committee last night on a 26-17 vote. House leaders hope to vote on the energy bill before the August recess, although its prospects in the Senate are far from certain.
The energy bill lifts a congressional ban on oil drilling in ANWR and authorizes an inventory of coal and other energy supplies on federal lands, excluding national parks and wilderness areas.
In a statement released by the White House last night, Mr. Bush praised the vote, saying it "represent[s] important steps toward implementing a comprehensive and balanced energy policy" and applauding the panel for "acting swiftly to increase energy efficiency, expand use of renewables and open a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for environmentally responsible exploration."
"To the president's credit, shortly after he took office, his administration looked at the looming energy crisis on the horizon and ordered the federal agencies to take action immediately," added Rep. James V. Hansen, Utah Republican and House Resources Committee chairman.
"The rest of the work he left to Congress with the understanding that we would develop appropriate legislation remedies that would be both comprehensive in nature and long-term in scope," Mr. Hansen said.
But the energy bill remains a non-starter in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, is threatening to filibuster other bills in his effort to force Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota to schedule the measure for debate.
"We're going to vote on a national energy policy on the floor of the Senate this year with or without Senator Daschle," said Sen. Larry E. Craig, who accused the Democrats of complacency.
"A 10-cent or a 12-cent drop in gas prices does not a crisis solve," the Idaho Republican said.
The Senate energy bill may not contain a provision to drill in ANWR, however, as support in the upper chamber continues to lag.
"The Congress should set aside the partisan, sensational and disingenuous rancor on this debate and do what is best for the country," said Rep. George P. Radanovich, California Republican.
The House bill outlines environmental protections for the drilling area and says oil production will "result in no significant adverse effect on fish and wildlife, their habitat, subsistence resources and the environment."
The bill also creates new incentives for oil and gas development on federal lands and the outer continental shelf not already off limits to production.
House Democrats vowed that the battle in their chamber was not over either.
Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat and a Resources Committee member, said during a Capitol Hill press conference he would continue to fight against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge "every step of the way."
"By ramming through this initiative today as the so-called centerpiece of the president's energy plan, the proponents are guaranteeing that by August, the controversy surrounding their tactics will threaten every other aspect of their energy plan, and the whole thing could come crashing down," said Mr. Markey, who introduced the amendment to bar ANWR drilling.
The Democrats who sided with Republicans in rejecting Mr. Markey's amendment were Reps. Cal Dooley of California, Brad Carson of Oklahoma and Solomon P. Ortiz of Texas, and Delegates Eni F.H. Faleomavaega of Samoa and Robert A. Underwood of Guam. Those who also voted against the Democratic alternative were Mr. Carson, Mr. Faleomavaega and Mr. Ortiz.
Mr. Markey will ask the Rules Committee to delete the drilling provision before the bill reaches the House floor. If that fails, Mr. Markey said, the measure will be rejected in a House vote because "the American public is against it overwhelmingly, unequivocally opposed."
Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, Oregon Democrat, said consumers could save energy by using energy-efficient light bulbs, and the proper inflation of air in vehicle tires "would save more oil than could ever be extracted from ANWR."
"Americans would rather put more air in tires — because air is free — than drill in ANWR," Mr. DeFazio said.
"Since the dawn of time, man has burned carbons. It's time to move on from this caveman technology," Mr. DeFazio said.
Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, the panel's ranking Democrat and author of the Democratic alternative, called the Republican energy bill "a grab bag of goodies for big oil."
The measure "represents an unprecedented assault on America's resources and on American taxpayers under the guise of contributing to our national security," the West Virginian said.
Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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