WASHINGTON -- Senate action on energy legislation, and a likely confrontation over whether to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, is being put off until next year.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said Tuesday he is committed to bringing an energy bill up for floor debate within the first few weeks after Congress returns in January.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the decision to delay energy legislation is ''jeopardizing our national security.''
Murkowski has pushed for years to get Senate approval of ANWR drilling, arguing it could provide enough oil to more than displace imports from Iraq. Opponents to such drilling say the oil would do little to cut imports and the fields would take years to develop.
Daschle has said that other pressing matters such as economic recovery, national security in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and remaining government spending bills, leave no time to deal with energy this year.
It is ''not only my expectation, but my commitment that we will take the bill up during that first work period'' next year, meaning before the Senate recess for Presidents' Day in mid-February.
Congress is expected to recess in mid-December and return in January.
Senate Republicans have accused Daschle of blocking consideration of energy legislation to avoid a heated debate over ANWR development. A number of Democrats have vowed to filibuster any attempt to open the refuge to oil companies. The drilling has been a key element of President Bush's domestic energy strategy.
''It's a great concern to me and a number of senators that we are not going to be able to consider energy policy for our country before the end of the year, especially in view of the fact that we see now continuing uncertainty about what is going to be done by OPEC countries,'' said GOP leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.
Republicans have argued that legislation is needed to spur domestic energy development and ease U.S. reliance on oil imports, including those from the Persian Gulf. Democrats have maintained that most of the provisions in an energy bill will be long-term measures and should not be rushed through.
Amid talk of an energy crisis, the House last summer passed a fairly broad energy bill that includes ANWR drilling with some restrictions. But its plans to follow with a series of measures aimed specifically at the electricity industry, a key part of a comprehensive energy blueprint, were sidetracked by the events of Sept. 11.
Since then, energy prices across the board, from oil and natural gas to gasoline and electric power, have declined dramatically with plenty of supplies, easing the crisis atmosphere that prevailed a few months ago.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.