House Resources Leader Tries to Halt Anti-ANWR Campaign

Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), chairman of the House Resources Committee, is urging House lawmakers not to co-sponsor a bill that would keep the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) closed to oil and natural gas drilling.

"DO NOT co-sponsor the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act," Pombo said in a "Dear Colleague" letter to House lawmakers Wednesday. The bill, which is backed by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), "would lock away the energy rich lands of the 1002 [coastal plain] area that Congress set aside in 1980 for the purpose of energy development," he noted.

"You recently received several 'Dear Colleague' letters urging you to 'defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge' and co-sponsor the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act. I urge you to approach the hyperbolic and emotional pleas in these letters with great caution, if not incredible skepticism," Pombo warned House members.

"Activists with little understanding of our nation's energy needs often use scare tactics to achieve their political goals, including the rhetorical threat that ANWR production would 'spoil the last remaining special place' in America. These claims are absurd," he said.

Alaska holds 16 national wildlife refuges; 13 national parks, preserves and monuments; 25 wild, scenic or recreational rivers; a national conservation area; a national recreation area; and two national forests. "There is no shortage of 'special places' in Alaska or America."

Energy exploration and production in ANWR would take place on just 2,000 acres of its 1.5 million-acre coastal plain, Pombo noted. That amounts to 0.0003% of Alaska's protected lands.

"Real problems warrant real solutions and honest debate. America needs a comprehensive energy policy that increases our supplies of all forms of energy, especially conventional oil and gas. ANWR's 1002 area is a remote location that is energy super-rich," he said.

"At today's prices, ANWR's mean estimate of 10.3 billion barrels of oil amounts to $500 billion -- $500 billion we could spend here at home, rather than sending equal amounts overseas to import this resource from the Middle East."

The House already has approved oil and gas drilling in the coastal area of ANWR as part of its comprehensive energy legislation, which it passed in 2004 and the prior year. The energy bill, however, never made it out of the Senate last year. Key Senate and House leaders are expected to take another stab at a broad energy measure this year. A contentious debate over ANWR also is expected to take place in the new Congress, but the issue is not likely to become part of the energy bill.

Earlier this week, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, indicated that the committee plans to complete work on energy legislation before Congress leaves for its Presidents' Day recess on Feb. 18. Both the Bush White House and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) are said to be pressing the committee to finish the bill early in the session.

(Copyright 2004 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.

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