Both sides increase ANWR lobbying in Washington

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Both sides in the battle over oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge may wish they could reach every household in America with their messages.

But this month, they're focusing their advertising where it counts most, in Washington, D.C.

ANWR development can't go forward unless Congress and the Bush administration approve.

The National Audubon Society finished a two-week, $150,000 television campaign against ANWR drilling Wednesday, just as a new coalition of drilling proponents launched its own.

The Energy Stewardship Alliance, led by Alaska-based Arctic Power, said at a news conference it will spend $125,000 on television and $73,000 on radio commercials in the D.C. area. The advertising blitz is designed to reach members of Congress, their staff members and administration officials.

Audubon's television commercial describes the ANWR coastal plain as a national treasure, then cuts to footage of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound.

''Do we really think they won't spill again?'' the commercial asks.

That drew a protest from Roger Herrera, Arctic Power's Washington lobbyist.

Herrera said leaving ANWR oil in the ground would boost the likelihood of oil spills. He contends that's because U.S. consumers simply won't go without the oil; they'll get it instead from foreign tankers with less strict safety rules originating in countries with less strict environmental regulations.

The Energy Stewardship Alliance's commercial opens with footage of the gas lines that occurred during the 1973 OPEC oil embargo while a narrator notes America is more dependent on foreign oil today than it was then.

''Twenty years ago, Congress set aside a small part of Alaska to provide for our energy security,'' the narrator said.

Herrera, questioned about the accuracy of that phrase during the news conference, said the ANWR coastal plain indeed was set aside for study, with the final decision to be made by Congress.

Myron Ebell, a policy director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, also said he thought the commercial was accurate.

''Congress has decided that it should be opened -- it was decided in 1996 but it was vetoed by the president,'' Ebell said.

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