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Senator says Alaskan oil plan to be scrapped

| Saturday, April 5, 2003

WASHINGTON -- There will be no attempt to revive drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge as part of a Senate energy bill, says the Republican senator who will guide the legislation.

Sen. Pete Domenici, a Republican from New Mexico said the Senate's recent rejection of a proposal to develop oil in the refuge has made it clear that another such confrontation will only fail and, perhaps, jeopardize broader energy legislation.

"There's nothing mysterious about it. We'll lose. We'll bring it up, debate it for an hour or two. We'll vote (and) lose," said Domenici in an interview, explaining why he has no intention of pursuing the issue, though he firmly believes the refuge's oil should be developed.

This week, the House signaled that it again will call for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil companies. The provision cleared the House Resources Committee as part of a House energy package and Democrats are not believed to have enough votes to block it when it comes up for a floor vote, possibly as early as next week.

But in the Senate it's another story.

When the Senate rejected a drilling proposal by a 52-48 vote two weeks ago it "worked its will," said Domenici.

He said he would not put the ANWR drilling measure into the broad energy bill his Energy and Natural Resources Committee will begin putting together next week, nor does he expects any other senator -- even Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, a Republican -- to press for an amendment on the Senate floor.

To do so, Domenici said, would only prompt a filibuster (a delaying tactic that requires 60 votes to overcome) by ANWR drilling opponents, led by Democrats he referred to as "the presidential people" -- those seeking to challenge President Bush, who has repeatedly called for developing the refuge's oil.

Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina are all strongly opposed to drilling in the refuge and are all running for president in 2004.

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