WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge remains strong, but the Interior Department's budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes money from ANWR oil leasing.
It also adds money to prepare for more oil leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
Six weeks ago the Bush administration announced it was assuming $1.2 billion in ANWR leasing revenues by 2004 in next year's budget.
Opposition to drilling in the refuge's coastal plain forced House and Senate budget writers to drop the idea of including that revenue source in their plans.
Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said the administration remains firm on its ANWR stance.
''Because the administration has studied the issue -- and we are continuing to look at information that is presented to us -- it makes sense to go forward with ANWR as part of the ways of obtaining oil especially, but potentially also gas, for our nation's long-term future,'' said Norton, who recently toured ANWR and the North Slope with Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-AK, and a Washington delegation.
The administration's 2002 budget calls for a $5 million boost in the Bureau of Land Management funding, much of it for additional coastal plain resource studies.
Apart from ANWR, the 2002 Interior budget contains no big surprises regarding potential North Slope exploration.
''The budget will fund preparation for an additional lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska,'' said department budget director Bob Lamb. He said the goal would be to do the planning in 2002, and hold another NPRA lease sale in 2003.
The budget also earmarks $5 million for construction of a facility the Indian Health Service is planning to build in Bethel in conjunction with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp.
The administration also is holding steady on funding to implement the Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada and help Alaska and Pacific Northwest states rebuild salmon stocks.
The budget includes an additional $25 million more than Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK, had requested for Steller sea lion recovery.
It keeps core funding for the Denali Commission that Stevens created a few years ago at about $30 million.
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