Pro-environment Republicans speak out against ANWR drilling

Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Pro-environment House Republicans brought out a pair of hallowed party names Wednesday to attack a provision of an energy bill that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

Theodore Roosevelt IV, descended of conservation-minded President Theodore Roosevelt, and Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower, said ANWR drilling should be a last resort after other energy production options are explored.

''ANWR is this nation's Rubicon,'' Roosevelt said. ''It is the place where we will learn if we possess the restraint, reason and decency to respect the values preserved there.''

With the energy bill expected on the floor in one week, pro-environment GOP moderates have formed a group called Republicans for a Responsible Energy Plan to push for changes.

They say the energy bill does not reflect the views most Republicans have about protecting the environment and the nation's energy future.

They also contend the development stance represented in the bill could cost Republicans in upcoming elections -- especially the ANWR drilling provision championed by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and other pro-development lawmakers.

Susan Eisenhower said the issue is extremely controversial but the refuge is one of the nation's last great resources.

Eisenhower said that the creation in 1960 of what was then called the Arctic Wildlife Range was one of her grandfather's proudest legacies, even though oil drilling was originally deemed to be compatible with it.

Roosevelt said it is unacceptable to drill in the ANWR coastal plain when new technology can provide alternative ways of producing and conserving energy.

As the pro- and anti-drilling sides prepare for debate next week, a New York Republican said defeating the ANWR provision ''is not going to be a cakewalk.''

''The Alaska delegation is very strong and very influential in Congress -- Young, Murkowski and Stevens,'' said Rep. Sherwood Boehlert. ''And those are no shrinking violets. But I think if we do the job that I am confident we are up to, we will educate the public sufficiently to have some real doubts about doing that and to energize them to write to their representatives and encourage them to do the right thing.''

Drilling supporters believe they have a good shot at retaining the ANWR provision.

The pro-drilling group Arctic Power plans a weekend trip to the North Slope with some undecided lawmakers so they can take a firsthand look before casting their vote. At least two members of Congress and as many as six are expected to make the trip.

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