Senators rap rumors about Clinton proposing ANWR as national monument

Posted: Friday, June 16, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Alaska's two Republican senators are complaining about new rumors that the Clinton administration plans to declare the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a national monument.

Such a move would make it off-limits to oil development.

The latest rumor was published Thursday in the trade publication ''Oil Daily.''

Senator Frank Murkowski waved the newsletter in front of Energy Undersecretary Ernest Monzi at a Senate Energy Committee hearing on legislation intended to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil.

Monzi responded that he didn't know anything about it.

Murkowski asked why the White House would consider a monument designation for the refuge when it has the continent's greatest potential for holding a giant oil field.

Senator Ted Stevens said he also has been hearing rumors that Clinton intends to withdraw more Alaska lands under the 1906 Antiquities Act.

The lawmakers believe the administration is constrained by the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. That says any future land withdrawals of more than 5,000 acres in Alaska must be approved by Congress.

Stevens says he hopes that such a move, if it occurs, would be struck down by the courts, the Anchorage Daily News and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has said at earlier hearings that he knows of no effort by the White House to declare the refuge a national monument. Babbitt has said he wouldn't support it.

But those designations usually do not go through the usual departmental processes. Instead, they're decided at the White House among the president's closest political advisers and usually without much if any consultation.

According to the Oil Daily, the White House has prepared the paperwork for designating the coastal plain of ANWR as a monument, and it's just a matter of political timing. The publication quoted unidentified sources in its story.

Clinton recently designated four national monuments in Western states, but has not made any public statements about his plans for ANWR.

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