Rep. Young among conferees on energy bill

Posted: Friday, June 14, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Rep. Don Young has secured one of 44 House seats on a conference committee appointed to work out differences with the Senate over energy legislation.

One of the big differences between House and Senate versions of the bill is that the House version contains a provision to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. The Senate version does not.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert announced his appointments to the conference committee Wednesday. The Senate named its 17 conference members last month.

Young said he is not sure if the conference committee should produce any bill if it doesn't include a provision for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

If the committee includes ANWR drilling in the final bill, the entire measure is expected to be voted down in the Senate.

Young will join Sen. Frank Murkowski who was named as one of the Senate's 17 conferees on the bill.

Young said last month that House conferees will have a solid majority in favor of drilling. The Senate Democratic leadership opposes drilling, though, and it appears to have enough backers on the conference to make that view stick.

Sen. John Breaux, D-La., is seen as a potential tie-breaker. Breaux has consistently supported ANWR drilling in the past. However, Bill Wicker, the spokesman for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has signaled that Breaux fears a pro-drilling provision would kill any chance for the conference committee's version to pass the full Senate.

''All Democratic conferees are committed to supporting a conference report that can pass the Senate,'' Wicker has said on several occasions during the past month.

Democratic Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and John Kerry of Massachusetts have vowed to filibuster any bill that allows ANWR drilling, and Alaska's senators have been unable to muster the 60 votes necessary to stop that filibuster.

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