ANCHORAGE -- Opponents of development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge say they will filibuster a Senate energy bill if it contains a provision to allow oil exploration on the refuge. Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens said Wednesday two can play the filibuster game.
''I intend to go back and see if we can organize a group that will say we'll filibuster the bill if it's not in there,'' Stevens said of the drilling provision.
''Those people who need this bill -- and there's a lot of areas in the country that need the bill -- are going to have to decide whether they're against energy reform or for those of us who want to try to solve some of the problems of energy and open this area now to exploration.''
At a news conference, Stevens congratulated Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and Jerry Hood, chief executive officer of the Alaska Teamsters, for their efforts in keeping the ANWR provision in the House version of the President Bush's energy bill approved last week.
The fight in the Senate will be different, Stevens said. Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., opposes ANWR drilling. Massachusetts Democrats John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, plus Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., have vowed to filibuster the bill if it contains the ANWR provision.
''That's a formidable group to take on but it will be our task to do that,'' Stevens said.
A filibuster, an indefinitely long speech, can only be terminated by a vote of 60 senators. A filibuster stops all other action on the Senate floor and can go on as long as the speaker desires, depending on the speaker's endurance and the number of senators willing to participate.
Stevens said it was unfortunate that the Massachusetts senators decided to oppose the drilling provision.
The amendment to Alaska National Interest Lands Conserva-tion Act of 1980 allowing a future Congress to authorize drilling was co-authored by then-Sens. Paul Tsongas, D-Mass., and Henry ''Scoop'' Jackson, D-Wash. The compromise led to Stevens and others agreeing to let the bill become law, he said.
''These senators are breaking faith with their predecessors,'' Stevens said. ''I know of no other way to put it. They are abandoning a commitment made by the Congress to us as a state that that area would be open to exploration and development.''
Stevens said the energy bill has been amended to satisfy many complaints. The House version limits development to 2,000 acres of the 1.5 million-acre refuge. The bill prohibits foreign export of oil from the refuge, requires the most modern technology for drilling and would devote 50 percent of the federal production royalties to research for renewable or alternative energy technology or land conservation and historic preservation, Stevens said.
''I know of no area that's ever made that kind of commitment nationally to bring about exploration and development,'' Stevens said.
Stevens said he was optimistic about the chances for ANWR development.
''If we can get the full support of all the labor movement now I think we'll be able to amass the 60 votes that would be needed to break this filibuster,'' he said.
Steven said he did not know how much support he would have for his own filibuster.
''We haven't organized it yet,'' he said. ''We're just letting people know that we're not going to be happy either without that amendment in there.''
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