Senate approves ANWR drilling as part of budget reconciliation bill

| 3/20/2006

A controversial provision that would allow drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one step closer to becoming law.

On Thursday, March 16, the U.S. Senate narrowly approved a $2.8 trillion resolution of President Bush’s proposed fiscal year 2007 budget, with a vote of 51-49. Although Senate Democrats were expected to propose an amendment that would’ve blocked the ANWR provision, the opposition never came, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

According to the Daily News, the addition of two amendments to the provision – one which would provide $10 billion for the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, and a second that would give $3.3 billion in heating assistance to low-income homes – most likely helped squeak the measure through the Senate.

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, added the ANWR measure as a separate line item in the reconciliation of the president’s 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.”

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 last attempt to pass an ANWR provision, which was part of a much larger $453 billion defense appropriations bill.