- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 30, 2003

Rebuffed by the Senate, the Bush administration will not give up the fight this year to open an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling, Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton said yesterday.
The White House is turning its attention to the House in hopes of salvaging a key part of the president's energy strategy. Republicans fell two votes shy in the Senate of passing the legislation that could lead to removing a 43-year-old ban on developing millions of barrels of oil from the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
"We continue to press about ANWR, because that one small spot is believed to have the ability to produce more oil than the entire state of Texas," Mrs. Norton told people gathered for the National Wildlife Federation's 67th annual meeting.
On Friday, Sen. Pete V. Domenici, New Mexico Republican and chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, who favors developing the refuge's oil, shot down rumors that he might push the issue as part of a broad energy bill to be offered by his committee in the summer.
"I am not given to subterfuge. No means no," he said.
The House may still revive the issue as part of its energy bill. Mrs. Norton's Interior Department estimates that 5.7 billion to 16 billion barrels of oil are in the refuge, enough to produce 1.4 million barrels a day, compared with Texas's 1 million. Opponents argue that the refuge might produce no more than 3.2 billion barrels of oil, depending on the market price.
A common theme among the environmentalists who listened to Mrs. Norton's speech or questioned her afterward was the worry that President Bush's policies cater to industry and shortchange wildlife such as caribou, musk oxen, polar bears and migrating birds at the Alaska refuge.
"Wildlife refuges ought to be the one place where wildlife interests come first," said Clark Bullard of Urbana, Ill., an engineering professor who helps lead the Prairie Rivers Network environmental group.
Mrs. Norton said her department is committed to conservation but that tight budgets demand creative thinking and cooperation from refuge neighbors preserving wildlife and their habitats. She also sought to deflect some criticism by citing successes of the Environmental Protection Agency and by portraying the president as an outdoorsman whose love of clearing brush on his Texas ranch reflects an understanding for the harm that nonnative species of plants and animals can cause by invading other species' natural habitats.

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