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...
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