In a strange turn of events, Republicans from the U.S. House of Representatives last week put the kybosh on the most recent attempt to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, despite bi-partisan support from the Senate to include such a proposal in the final version of the 2007 federal budget bill. Environmentalists are hopeful that this latest in a long string of Congressional rejections of ANWR drilling will be the last time they must go on the defensive over the issue while pro-drilling President Bush is in office.
In a move most often associated with Republican House members, the Senate earlier in the month put language in its version of the budget bill calling for raising billions of dollars in leasing fees by allowing oil companies to drill on the wildlife-rich 1.5 million acre coastal plain of ANWR. Yet opposition from about two-dozen House Republicans forced budget committee chair Jim Nussle (R-IA) to drop the drilling proposal from his chamber’s version of the budget bill. “If that many people say ‘no ANWR or we’re not going to vote for the budget’ … it’s silly to put something in there when the obvious final goal here is to have a budget,” a Nussle aide told reporters.
In the meantime, environmentalists, caribou and polar bears have all been sleeping better at night as they pray that the next White House will see the folly in despoiling “America’s Serengeti” for a few extra billion barrels of oil.