Much to the delight of environmentalists, the Bush administration has withdrawn a contentious proposal to drill for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) from its omnibus energy bill, which it hopes to push through Congress this session. The White House hopes to leverage the increased Republican majority in Congress for passage of the $31 billion bill, originally introduced three years ago.
While environmentalists are relieved that ANWR drilling is off the table for now, they are still concerned about other aspects of the energy bill, including provisions for significantly increasing oil and natural gas drilling on otherwise pristine federal lands, boosting coal production, which will increase emissions of greenhouse gases and loosening environmental regulations on the power industry.
Meanwhile, Alaska’s Congressional delegation is still chomping at the bit to finally open up ANWR to drilling. Newly elected Republican Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said at a press conference last week that pushing for an ANWR bill would be her first order of business when Congress convenes next year. Murkowski staffers reported that tacking ANWR drilling onto a budget bill—where it would only need 50 votes to pass—seems a likely scenario in light of the proposal’s exclusion from the energy bill.