Senate sparring begins on energy bill
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Production versus conservation dominated debate on the Senate floor on Tuesday as the chamber finally took up a long-delayed energy policy bill the White House said was troubling.

Little movement was seen as Republicans accused the Democratic leadership of introducing a proposal they said was drafted behind closed doors. Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, blasted Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) for not allowing his panel to provide input for fear the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) would be opened up to drilling.

"He did it obviously to obstruct an ANWR provision in the bill," he said. "If it's (ANWR) dead, he killed it."

Democrats attempted to deflect the criticism, saying committee work would have slowed down its introduction to the main floor. In kicking off the discussion, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the energy panel, argued that the bill balanced conservation with development.

"We have an opportunity to pass a bill that meets our needs through a combination of increased production of domestic oil and gas and the use of new and emerging technologies," he said.

But drilling is just one issue that threatens to tie down the offering. The White House said it "strongly opposes" new vehicle fuel standards it claimed would wreck the automotive industry and increase accidents.

The Bush administration also continued to push development as a way to improve national security. In a speech yesterday in Little Rock, Arkansas, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton the oil in ANWR would reduce dependency on Iraq.

The refuge, which is home to an Inupiat Eskimo village on the North Slope, is not "beautiful," she added. "There are no mountains like they show in the television commercials," she said. "It is a plain."

Debate on the bill is expected to last well into the next week, with dozens of amendments to be offered. As it stands, the measure includes several provisions affecting energy development in Indian Country.

The bill would:
  • Create an Office of Indian Energy Programs within the Department of Energy.
  • Expand of the grant and technical assistance authority of the Secretary of Energy to help tribes develop energy policies and programs.
  • Require the Secretary of Energy to provide reports on energy development in Indian Country.
  • Direct the Secretary of Interior to review the Indian Mineral Development Act.
  • Direct the Secretary of Interior to work with tribes to streamline development of energy facilities on reservations.
  • Require the federal government to purchase at least 10 percent of renewable energy from Indian tribes or Indian businesses, if available.
  • Provide tax incentives for investments in Indian energy development.
The House last summer passed an energy bill which closely followed the priorities of President Bush. Included was allowing ANWR drilling to an above-ground "footprint" of 2,000 acres.

The Indian provisions and others are contained in Title IV of the Energy Policy Act of 2002.

Get the Bill:
Title IV: Indidan Energy | Energy Policy Act of 2002

Relevant Links:
Oil Issues in ANWR, US Fish and Wildlife -
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Pro-Development site -

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