- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 21, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The House voted last night to allow oil drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge as part of a broad energy bill.

Democrats charged that the bill would funnel billions of dollars to highly profitable energy companies while doing little to promote conservation or ease gasoline prices.

The bill’s sponsors said oil from Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as much as 1 million barrels a day, will be needed to help curtail the country’s growing dependence on oil imports.

The bill calls for $8.1 billion in tax breaks over 10 years, most of it going to promote coal, nuclear, oil and natural gas energy industries.



Development of the Alaska refuge has been a contentious issue for nearly a decade. Environmentalists say drilling would harm the area’s polar bears, caribou, migrating birds and other wildlife.

A final House vote on the energy legislation is expected today.

Senate Democrats have pledged to filibuster any energy bill that would open the refuge to oil companies. An amendment to strip the Alaska refuge provision from the energy bill failed last night with a 231-200 vote.

Rep. Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who offered the amendment to remove ANWR drilling from the energy bill, said the bill does nothing to improve the fuel economy of automobiles, and said it was wrong ?to then turn to the wilderness areas and say we need energy.?

A proposed amendment to require automakers to increase fuel economy was defeated by a vote of 254-177.

Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, New York Republican, a co-sponsor of the auto fuel economy proposal, said it would have reduced oil use by 2 million barrels a day by 2020. Opponents charged that such a measure would cost the auto industry jobs and reduce automobile safety.

?We don’t need to micromanage our auto manufactures,? said Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican.

In defending proposed ANWR drilling, Rep. Richard W. Pombo, California Republican, said oil in the wildlife refuge can be developed using modern drilling techniques without harming the environment.

?We don’t have to choose between providing the energy resources … and protecting our environment,? he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, yesterday accused President Bush of trying to exploit anxiety over high gas prices to gain support for a bill that she said ?was written by energy lobbyists for the benefit of the energy industry.?

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