FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Alaska's Sen. Frank Murkowski will introduce a national energy policy bill that if successful would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's coastal plain to oil drilling.
Murkowski, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, had planned to introduce the bill two weeks ago but delayed the event until Monday to assess its budget impact, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
The legislation is expected to address a wide range of energy policies, providing tax incentives, regulation changes and grants to encourage development of both fossil fuels and alternative energy sources.
In the meantime, environmental groups have been working hard to persuade President George W. Bush to drop his support for ANWR drilling.
The Defenders of Wildlife said Friday the White House e-mail system has been overwhelmed by the 650,000 messages sent from the group's Web site in the past month. The White House system has returned thousands of the messages, the group said in a news release.
Bush has made a national energy policy a top priority, convening a cabinet-level group to develop the idea. Andrew Lundquist, a former Murkowski aide who grew up in Fairbanks, is the energy group's director under Vice President Dick Cheney.
Republicans for Environmental Protection America sent a letter to Bush last week urging him not to push for ANWR drilling as part of the package.
''As President of the United States, you have a legacy to build,'' the group said. ''You can be remembered as a champion of what the American people wanted and needed at the dawn of a new century, or as a champion of what the lobbyists, corporate power brokers and anti-environmental extremists were demanding at the end of an old one. You cannot be remembered for both.''
Drilling opponents in Congress are expected to introduce their own bill on Wednesday to designate the coastal plain as wilderness. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., are leading the effort.
Both initiatives face difficulties.
Drilling advocates have the president's support and a similarly supportive Republican majority in the House.
However, in the Senate several senators have vowed to filibuster any legislation that opens ANWR.
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