US Lawmaker Pushes For Drilling In Alaska Refuge

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Sep. 7, 2011

The top lawmaker on the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Wednesday said opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to drilling should be part of a plan to reduce the federal debt.

The comments from Rep. Doc Hastings (R., Wash.) came as a separate committee of 12 lawmakers begins work to find more than $1 trillion in budget savings before a November deadline. The oil and gas industry is also pushing more drilling as a way to boost economic growth.

Proposals to drill in the Alaska refuge have failed in Congress before and are sure to draw opposition from conservation advocates. It is far from clear that the deficit committee, which is already facing a tight deadline to reach a compromise, would consider allowing exploration there as part of a plan to increase revenues.

"We must remember that it's not just about cutting spending," Hastings said. "There's no question that Washington D.C. has a spending problem, but we must also look for new ways to generate revenue without raising taxes."

"For the Joint Committee [of lawmakers working on deficit reduction], which is looking at a 10-year window, this could generate several billions of dollars in new revenue to help meet their goal," Hastings said.

The deficit committee is also expected to consider other ways to increase revenue, perhaps including a plan from Democrats to reduce tax breaks for oil companies. The chairman and chief executive of Chevron, who spoke after Hastings at a public event here, said he opposed oil companies being "singled out" as part of a deficit deal. "If you impose punitive measures on my industry, we will invest less. It's simply the way we go through our decision making process," John Watson said.

Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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