Senate rejects ANWR drilling proposal
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FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2002

Some of Indian Country's strongest advocates voted on Thursday to support efforts to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development.

But their nods of approval, along with those from Republican proponents and Democrats from an oil-producing state, weren't enough to keep the controversial issue alive. After two weeks of debate which ranged from national security interests to environmental impact to Alaska Native self-determination, the Senate rejected a proposal to allow drilling in the federally-protected North Slope.

The tally was 54 to 46 against the measure, a clear and resounding victory for continued protection of the refuge. Eight GOP members broke with party lines to oppose development, leaving their colleagues 14 votes short of the 60 needed to break Senate rules that Democrat leaders imposed.

Five Democrats, too, strayed from the opposition their leaders mounted. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, both of Hawaii and chairman and member of the Indian Affairs Committee, respectively, voted to keep the pro-drilling amendment in the energy bill still under debate.

In doing so, they supported efforts which centered on the Native aspect of ANWR exploration. Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), also a member of the Indian panel, was the chief promoter of Arctic drilling and, along with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), used the Senate floor to advance the rights of Alaska Natives.

Under plans to look for oil and gas in a portion of the refuge, about 92,000 acres of land owned in fee by Inupiat Eskimos would be affected. Representatives of Arctic Slope Regional Corp., a regional Alaska Native corporation, were in Washington, D.C., to show their support for Murkowski's proposal.

But Democrats didn't take the bite and framed the issue as one of environmental protection. Siding with national conservation groups and the Gwich'in Nation, an Athabascan tribe which works closely with green activists, they said their opposition was simple.

"We are just not going to allow Republicans to destroy the environment," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in a press briefing prior to the vote. "That's exactly what this issue has been all about from the very beginning."

Murkowski and Stevens responded after the vote. "It's not over yet," said Murkowski.

From the White House, spokesperson Ari Fleischer said "the Senate missed an opportunity to lead America to greater energy independence." The Bush administration pitched drilling as a way to decrease dependence on foreign oil sources, singling out Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

"The President will continue to fight for the tens of thousands of jobs that are created by opening ANWR, as well as, more importantly, for the need for America to be able to achieve more energy independence that would result from opening ANWR," he said.

The other Democrats who voted for drilling were Sens. John Breaux and Mary Landrieu, both of Louisiana, an oil-developing state. Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia was also a supporter.

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), the vice-chair of the Indian Affairs Committee, voted in favor development. He has long championed the rights of the Inupiat Eskimos to explore on their own land. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), former head the committee, was one of the Republicans who voted no on the proposal.

How They Voted:
Senate Roll Call (The Washington Post 4/19)

Relevant Links:
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Willdife Service -
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Pro-Development site -

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