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ANWR facts get lost in the politics


Posted: Friday, December 23, 2005

You’ve got to give Uncle Ted points for tenacity, but even the Incredible Hulk couldn’t win this one.

His latest attempt to shoehorn in legislation that would open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and production was shot down Wednesday. After his previous attempt to have an ANWR provision pass in a deficit reduction package was foiled, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, got creative — or desperate, take your pick — and tried to attach it to the defense spending bill.

No such luck. The measure passed the House only to be dealt a death blow when Senate Democrats came out blazing with their favored weapon in legislative showdowns — the filibuster.

Drilling supporters came four votes shy of scraping together the 60 votes needed to overcome the threatened filibuster. So the provision was withdrawn from the defense spending bill, which passed and was sent on to the House.

It’s not surprising. ANWR has become a polarized issue in Washington and beyond. At the mere mention of the arctic refuge, people on either side of the issue immediately get up in arms. It’s gotten to the point where any serious, reasoned discussion of the issue gets lost in the din of ammo being loaded.

Environmentalists and Democrats opposed to drilling complain that GOP supporters of opening ANWR resort to legislative trickery to get the measure passed instead of proposing the issue in its own bill and having it pass or fail on its merits.

They have a point. Stevens has tried to latch ANWR drilling onto whatever coattails he can to get it through Congress. Attaching the measure onto a must-pass defense spending bill is but one example of the maneuvers he’s tried over the years.

But Democrats and environmentalists aren’t any better. They take an attack stance at the mere mention of ANWR and seem unwilling to truly consider any evidence that shows opening the arctic plain to drilling might not be anything short of ecological catastrophe.

So how is a meaningful discussion of ANWR to take place in Washington? How is Congress to get past the protesting and politicizing that have come to surround this issue?

It seems those are questions for another session.

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