Bush promotes ANWR as home security
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Opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development is even more necessary to protect homeland security, President Bush said on Thursday.

"[A]n energy bill is not only good for jobs, it's important for our national security to have a good energy policy," Bush told reporters after a Cabinet meeting. "The less dependent we are on foreign sources of crude oil, the more secure we are at home."

"I urge the Senate to listen to the will of the Senators and move a bill," he added.

Bush's remarks come after Democratic leaders in the Senate halted consideration of an energy bill. Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) this week pulled the proposal from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, causing anger among drilling supporters.

Bingaman, who chairs the committee, said the action was necessary to avoid caustic debate. The nation doesn't need squabbling to hold up a national energy policy, he said.

"At a time when Americans all over the world are pulling together with a sense of oneness and purpose," Bingaman said in a statement, "Congress has an obligation at the moment to avoid those contentious issues that divide, rather than unite, us."

But the move to suspend committee consideration and send the matter directly to Daschle was tied to concerns by Democrats that the panel would approve drilling in ANWR. Bingaman and most other Democrats oppose development in the refuge's coastal plain, but two party members on the committee were prepared to support it.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) had been lobbied to oppose drilling by the Gwich'in Nation but his spokesperson later noted he would support development if done in an "environmentally responsible way." Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) frequently sides with the energy industry, coming from an oil-friendly state.

Knowing their votes have been cast aside angered Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), the ranking Republican on the committee. He had lashed out at the Democrat action but yesterday had hopes after Bush made his remarks.

"The President's comments will have a very strong impact in the U.S. Senate in light of the events of Sept. 11," Murkowski said in a statement. "I'm optimistic that we are gaining strong ground in this battle."

With Democrats from New England threatening a filibuster if a pro-drilling amendment is brought to the Senate floor, Murkowski and supporters would need 60 votes to break it. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) told reporters yesterday the votes might not be there.

The House has already approved an energy bill that will allow for development 2,000 acres of ANWR's coastal plain. Home to the Native village of Kaktovik, Inupiat Eskimos widely support drilling, citing economic benefits, both locally and to Arctic Slope Regional Corp., an Inupiat-owned corporation with mineral rights.

Opposed to development are the Gwich'in, who live both in Alaska and Canada. Tribal members depend on the Porcupine caribou herd in the refuge and fear drilling will disrupt their spiritual, cultural, economic and food center.

Of the House action, Bush said it was a "good energy bill."

Get the House Bill:
To provide secure energy supplies for the people of the United States, and for other purposes (H.R.2436)

Relevant Links:
Gwich'in Steering Committee -
Oil Issues in ANWR, US Fish and Wildlife -
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, US Fish and Wildlife Service -
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Pro-Development site -

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