Young predicts Senate will back ANWR drilling

Posted: Friday, August 03, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- U.S. Rep. Don Young on Thursday predicted the Senate will fall sway to the same force that worked on the House in approving drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: union pressure.

''The allies I had on this are going to go to the Senate and whack them the same way they did on the House floor,'' the Alaska Republican told the Anchorage Daily News. ''The unions are very strong on this.''

After debate that stretched passed midnight Wednesday, the House approved an energy bill that would allow oil development in the coastal plain of the refuge.

The Senate is expected to take up the issue in September. Democratic leaders there are working on their own energy plan and have vowed to halt efforts to develop the coastal plain.

Melinda Pierce, the Sierra Club's lobbyist on ANWR, said she is not worried that the Senate will go the way of the House.

''Because the Senate's such a vastly different body, because it's a greener body,'' she said. ''Frankly, Arctic drilling will go nowhere in the Senate.''

Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., a drilling opponent, was less certain.

''I don't have any crystal ball here, but I do believe that the votes are there to prevent it,'' he told reporters. ''I could be mistaken, but I truly believe that the vast majority of the American people want us to find our oil elsewhere.''

Some senators might vote for it because, as the union lobbyists keep saying, ANWR means jobs, Daschle acknowledged. He said he still believes there's ''widespread opposition'' in the Senate to the drilling proposal.

Teamsters and allies in the labor movement plan to work out a Senate game plan in the next few weeks, while Congress is in recess, said Mano Frey, co-chairman of Arctic Power, the state-funded group lobbying for development of the coastal plain.

If senators pass an energy bill that does not include ANWR development, their bill and the House version will go to a conference committee, where lawmakers will fight over whether the compromise should include refuge drilling.

Young said ANWR drilling will prevail in the conference committee and the Senate will have no choice but to approve it. Americans believe the country has an energy problem and they want a solution, he said.

''The Daschle-led Senate cannot not have an energy bill,'' Young said.

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