Energy bill includes provision to open ANWR to oil drilling

Posted: Wednesday, May 17, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Sen. Frank Murkowski has again resurrected efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, this time in a national energy policy bill announced Tuesday with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

The wide-ranging legislation contains a section that directs the secretary of Interior to offer leases in the coastal plain of ANWR. Revenue would be split evenly between the state and federal governments.

Murkowski joined Lott and Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, on the Senate floor Tuesday to boost their ''National Energy Security Act.''

The energy package was created by a group of Republican senators appointed by Lott. Even within that group some members resisted the ANWR language due to environmental concerns, Murkowski said in a news conference after the floor session. In the end, the majority of the group was more interested in increasing domestic production of oil, Murkowski said.

''If you're going to find significant relief, you have to go to areas where you're likely to find oil,'' Murkowski said.

The ANWR coastal plain is such a place, he said. The plain was exempted from the wilderness status that Congress laid on much of the Arctic refuge's Brooks Range acreage in 1980.

''If sponsors of this bill really wanted to pass an energy package, they wouldn't include drilling in the refuge,'' said Adam Kolton, director of the Alaska Wilderness League in Washington, D.C. ''It's not only bad policy, it's bad politics.''

Besides the ANWR language, the energy package has one other Alaska-specific provision. It allows the Interior department to offer leases in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, off the North Slope, in exchange for a 16.7 percent share of any net profits that oil development might produce.

Currently, the Interior department can only offer leases in exchange for a share of the oil, called a royalty. Chuck Kleeschulte, Murkowski's spokesman, said the net-profit language helps oil companies develop fields in expensive areas because they don't give the government a share until they are making a profit.

The measure would also create tax breaks for wind and solar energy production, deductions for oil and gas exploration costs and creation of a heating oil reserve for Northeastern states.



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