Capitol Hill

Frozen solid

A 25-year quest by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) to open a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for energy exploration froze in its tracks Dec. 21, 2005, when the Senate failed to overcome a Democratic filibuster of the measure. It was a familiar outcome—the Senate has greeted ANWR drilling efforts with a frosty reception during the past few years. But after Republicans gained seats during the November 2004 elections, drilling proponents believed 2005 would be the year to break through the ice.

A modest proposal

In 1980, Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), creating the 19 million-acre (7.6 million-hectare) area known as ANWR. Situated in northeast Alaska, the refuge roughly is the size of South Carolina. ANILCA designated most of the land as wilderness, but one portion was excluded—the 1.5 million-acre (600,000-hectare) 1002 Area. Named for Section 1002 of ANILCA, this area was set aside for potential oil and gas development.

In 2005, Republican proponents succeeded in attaching a provision to the 2006 budget reconciliation bill to open 2,000 acres (800 hectares)—0.01 percent of ANWR's total acreage—of the 1002 Area to oil and gas exploration and production. But after GOP moderates in the House insisted the language be stripped from the bill, Stevens was left searching for an alternative and convinced GOP leaders in both chambers to move the language to the 2006 defense appropriations bill, figuring attaching the ANWR provision would force Democrats to vote for the measure or against funding for troops overseas. The gambit worked in the House, but the bill failed to pass the Senate 56-44, four votes shy of the 60 needed to end debate and move to final passage.

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