Thursday, October 20, 2005

Alaska drilling snuck into Senate Budget

Supporters of increasing domestic energy production scored with the Senate budget plan.

A key Senate committee on Wednesday advanced a measure that would achieve President Bush's long-sought goal of opening a portion of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

"This has been a long time coming," Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said after the panel voted to include authorization of the energy exploration in a budget bill.

But the drilling initiative, which environmentalists strongly oppose, still could be thwarted by an issue unrelated to the decades-old dispute: a fight over federal spending cuts.

Drilling proponents have hoped the measure would finally become law because, by attaching it to the budget bill, it would be immune to the filibusters that have previously blocked energy exploration in the refuge.