Senate blocks oil and gas leasing in ANWR

By OGJ editors
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 21 -- The US Senate blocked a provision to authorize oil and gas leasing of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Coastal Plain that was included in a defense appropriations bill.

Senate opponents of ANWR leasing moved to filibuster the bill, and supporters were unable to get the required 60 votes to avoid the filibuster. The Dec. 21 vote was 56-44.

Lawmakers were expected to withdraw the controversial bill in order to rewrite it without the ANWR provision.

After an all-night session earlier this week, the US House of Representatives voted 308-106 early Dec. 19 to pass a compromise defense spending bill approved earlier in a House-Senate conference (OGJ Online, Dec. 19, 2005).

Following the Dec. 21 vote, the American Petroleum Institute issued a statement on the Senate's rejection of the ANWR provision.

"The US Senate rejected an opportunity to join the House of Representatives in taking a significant step toward helping assure America's energy and economic future, which would enhance US national security," API said, adding, "Its refusal to seize this opportunity does a disservice to American consumers and fails to acknowledge that the consequences of inaction are adverse and significant."

API said, "Sadly, a marked increase in production of US crude oil and natural gas now remains on hold at a time when global competitors for crude oil like China and India are aggressively moving forward."

Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski said, "It is a national shame that environmental special interest groups have such control over a significant group of senators. In addition to obstructing our national energy security, they today held hostage such worthy causes as Hurricane Katrina relief funds, heating assistance for low-income families, and funds to protect Americans from an avian flu pandemic."

Before the Dec. 21 vote, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association sent senators a letter asking them to support the defense appropriations bill with the ANWR provision intact.

"Federal policies must fully consider the impact of environmental regulations on fuel supply," wrote Bob Slaughter, NPRA president.


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