Murkowski meets with congressional leaders on energy

Posted: Friday, October 18, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Sen. Frank Murkowski, who interrupted his gubernatorial campaign in Alaska to return to Washington, met with fellow Republicans over the energy bill.

But Murkowski did not emerge from the meeting Wednesday with news of any breakthroughs.

Murkowski said the chairman of the energy bill conference, Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., asked him to return to Washington.

''This was called by (Senate Minority Leader Trent) Lott to bring all Republican conferees together to discuss just where we were,'' Murkowski said.

Among the issues they discussed were financial incentives for construction of an Alaska natural gas pipeline, Murkowski said.

At least one senator who opposes the incentives was there, as were representatives of the Bush administration, which also opposes the incentives.

''In this kind of a discussion, you don't focus necessarily on solving necessarily one thing. You move around,'' he said.

In returning to Washington, Murkowski said he was putting his duty as a U.S. senator above his job as a candidate.

''We have important Alaska issues that are up,'' he said. ''Those issues involve, obviously, the gas line, which is paramount. We have an investment in it. You don't abandon it when we're still in session.''

House and Senate negotiators are divided over a number of energy bill issues, including renewable fuels and ethanol mandates.

Murkowski and other drilling supporters have been unable to convince the Senate Democrats to budge in their opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats sounded very optimistic about the bill this week.

''All I will say is that it's our hope that we can continue to press forward, with an expectation that at some point we can get an energy bill,'' said Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

Lott, R-Miss., said he fears the end result will be ''a shell, which we call policy, which is going to be empty.

''It's not going to really produce more, or conserve more but will cost more. And that's the worst of all worlds,'' Lott said.

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