Senate to make first move in renewed battle over ANWR drilling

| 3/8/2006

Although a group of predominately Republican U.S. Senators failed to open drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge last year, there’s a renewed interest on Capitol Hill in getting the controversial measure approved in 2006.

This time, instead of tacking the provision onto a larger bill, Senate Budget Chairman Judd Gregg, R-NH, and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Pete Domenici, R-NM, are pushing to add it as a separate line item in the reconciliation of President Bush’s $2.7 trillion Fiscal Year 2007 budget.

“While I strongly support the advancement of science and technologies to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources, I think that we must also build the bridge to that age by accessing the oil and gas resources available in our country,” Domenici said in a press release. “And, we must reasonably and responsibly conserve our energy.”

However, even some supporters of the bill have shown hesitation in supporting the addition of a line item in the budget for ANWR drilling.

“I do not think the reconciliation packages that we do at the end of the year ought to be an occasion to revisit substantive decisions we’re already made,” Rep. Artur Davis, D-AL, told Congressional Quarterly Today.

Despite strident lobbying and what some considered to be rule-breaking behavior by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK, the Senate on Dec. 21, 2005, denied the most recent attempt to pass an ANWR provision, which was part of a much larger $453 billion defense appropriations bill.

After it failed in the Senate, lawmakers across Washington vowed to pass the bill during the next legislative year.