FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles is lobbying all members of the U.S. House of Representatives as a vote looms on whether to allow drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
''I urge you to be guided by the substance of the issue rather than the symbolism associated with ANWR,'' Knowles wrote in the draft version of a letter that he planned to send Tuesday to every U.S. House member.
''In doing so, I believe you will conclude, as I have, that environmentally responsible development of ANWR is an essential component of a balanced national energy policy which also includes conservation, alternative fuels and fuel efficiency,'' the governor said.
The U.S. House is expected to vote on the matter as early as Wednesday during floor debate on an energy bill.
Knowles' draft letter stresses benefits to the U.S. economy as well as his stand that with advances in drilling technology, the coastal plain can be developed in an environmentally safe manner.
''The more than 20 years experience on Alaska's North Slope provides strong evidence that oil development at nearby ANWR poses little threat to the coastal plain's ecology,'' Knowles said, citing population growth of the Central Arctic Caribou Herd in the Prudhoe Bay area.
Knowles also emphasized that the Inupiat of the North Slope are among the strongest proponents of drilling in the coastal plain.
The governor's spokesman, Bob King, said the Knowles administration has been working closely with its Washington, D.C., office and the state-funded ANWR lobbying group Arctic Power on strategies to open the refuge.
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