ANWR provisions continue to stir energy debates on Capitol Hill

By the OGJ Online Staff

WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 15 -- The congressional battle over comprehensive energy legislation has continued this week with a controversial proposal to lease a portion of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge taking center stage.

A growing number of lawmakers predicted Wednesday that ANWR supporters do not have the 60 votes they need to survive a potential filibuster (OGJ Online, Nov. 8, 2001).

Nevertheless opponents of ANWR drilling warned victory is still uncertain.

"The Senate could vote this week, and the outcome is too close to call," said Defenders of Wildlife, an environmental group.

But when or if a vote will actually happen remains uncertain, congressional sources say.

Despite objections from the White House and some Senate Republican leaders, several lawmakers from oil-producing states vowed Wednesday to attach an energy bill with ANWR leasing to a pending economic stimulus package.

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Ida.) said absent a consensus on the stimulus bill, he would seek an energy amendment that included most provisions of House bill, H.R. 4. But in deference to the White House, Craig's amendment does not include the $34 billion in energy tax incentives the House included when it passed the bill in August. Of that $34 billion about $8 billion is earmarked for domestic marginal production, but the White House says the tax portions of the House bill cost too much.

It is unclear if Craig's proposal will get a vote on the Senate floor. Republicans and Democrats are expected to continue negotiating over the weekend to craft a compromise on an economic stimulus bill. Lawmakers may choose to abandon most energy proposals to keep the bill as noncontroversial as possible, lobbyists said.

For now, Democrats remain resolute about not including energy reform legislation in the stimulus bill.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said 2 weeks ago there was "no" chance the Senate would not allow a comprehensive energy bill to be added to stimulus package (OGJ Online, Nov. 1, 2001).

The $100 billion economic stimulus plan bill passed by the House includes a plan to extend through 2003 a key marginal well tax provision due to expire this year. But beyond that small provision, there is little in the bill that is energy-specific. However, larger oil companies would see large tax benefits from a retroactive claim on the Alternative Minimum Tax.

The pending Senate bill would provide $70 billion in economic incentives. It also may include an added $15 billion in "critical" infrastructure spending and extend the same marginal well provision by 1 year. About $2 billion of the $15 billion would go to the energy sector for homeland security upgrades.

Senate Democrats have not ruled out consideration of more sweeping energy legislation but say it may have to wait until early next year. Senate leaders want any bill that is considered to include electricity restructuring; the House bill does not include much guidance on that issue but House Republican leaders say they are willing to tackle the restructuring problem this year.

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