FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Labor leaders have sided with Alaska's senators in support of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, saying the work would benefit the nation's economy.
''We know when working families need help, and that time is now,'' James Hoffa, president of the Teamsters, said at a news conference Wednesday.
Hoffa said gasoline prices are rising and ANWR oil would help stem that trend. The union distributed a $228 receipt from a member's recent truck fill-up in New Jersey.
Mike Sacco, of the Seafarers International, said developing ANWR would keep U.S. workers employed on U.S. ships and in shipyards. ''These jobs will keep the economic engine of America prospering,'' Sacco said.
Sen. Frank Murkowski, at a news conference last week, noted that the Avondale shipyard in Louisiana has put one double-hulled tanker on the water, has recently christened another, has three under construction and may start working on two more. ''Without Alaska oil, those ships wouldn't be built,'' he said.
Overall, Hoffa said, ANWR's development would create 735,000 jobs. That figure comes from a 1990 study conducted by the Wharton School of Economics at Cambridge University in England.
Other labor groups represented at Wednesday's news conference included Marine Engineers, Operating Engineers, Laborers, Marine Officers, Ironworkers and the Plumbers and Pipefitters. They dubbed their coalition ''JobPOWER.''
Earlier this week, representatives of environmental groups that oppose ANWR drilling were asked in advance about the significance of Wednesday's labor announcement. Adam Kolton of the Alaska Wilderness League questioned the alleged labor unity, noting that the nation's largest union group, the AFL-CIO, had not endorsed ANWR development, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
The AFL-CIO has generally been more lukewarm toward the new administration's approach to the environment. When more than a dozen national environmental groups gathered at the National Press Club in January to protest the nomination of Gale Norton as secretary of the Interior, an AFL-CIO official stood with them. He said Norton's positions on environmental issues, though not specifically on ANWR, were counter to the interests of working people in the country.
Kolton said predictions that ANWR oil would both cut gasoline prices and create 735,000 new jobs are both based on the flawed assumption that the new oil would drive down world crude oil prices.
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