WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Senate today narrowly voted down an attempt to strike an Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling proposal from the federal budget.
The provision is part of a Republican budget plan that includes $1.2 billion in projected leasing revenues from ANWR within the next five years.
Sen. William Roth, R-Del., a leading opponent of ANWR drilling, proposed a measure that would have removed the expected drilling revenue from the budget bill. The Senate voted 51-49 to table the Roth amendment, effectively killing the measure.
Before the voting began Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., called the ANWR budget provision ''the most anti-environment bill in history.''
While the ANWR provision squeaked through the Senate, President Clinton is expected to veto any measure that calls for drilling in the refuge.
''The Arctic refuge is a one-of-a-kind natural resource. It's an intact ecosystem that's irreplaceable. It should not be disturbed,'' Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes said at a hearing Wednesday before the Senaate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Supporters say opening the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain would result in national energy security. But critics say drilling would do little to satisfy the country's thirst for oil and would harm the migrating porcupine caribou herd, which calves on the coastal plain and is a key source of food for Athabaskans living in Alaska and Canada.
Several witnesses, led by Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, were on hand Wednesday to support development. Knowles said it is crucial to begin exploration and development in the refuge because of tight oil supplies and high gasoline prices.
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