The House of Representatives early today passed comprehensive energy legislation that includes President George W. Bush’s plan to drill in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). President Bush has been fighting to open the Alaskan wilderness for drilling as part of his long-term plan to boost domestic oil and natural gas supplies and reduce dependence on foreign oil imports.
After more than 14 hours of debate, the House approved the bill 240 to 189. The lawmakers rejected amendments to the legislation that would have blocked drilling in the refuge. The White House won the support of 36 Democrats, while 16 Republicans voted against it.
“It's a lot better if we produce it at home than depend on (Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein,” said Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA).
Through a White House press release, President Bush said he is pleased by the House action, adding that, “America is too dependent on foreign supplies of energy.”
The Teamsters, who have been lobbying to get the bill passed, are claiming a victory, even though it still has to get through the Democrat-controlled Senate in September.
“This is a major victory for the millions of workers whose occupations depend upon energy, and for all Americans who care about reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” said Teamsters general president James P. Hoffa. “By their vote, members of Congress demonstrated that they have learned that responsible energy production and environmental protection can peacefully coexist.”
Roger Herrera, Washington spokesman for Arctic Power, an Alaskan-based non-profit group spearheading the move to open the ANWR, said today he was optimistic that today's House victory will provide the momentum needed to advance the issue in the Senate and win final approval.
“The opposition said ANWR was a dead issue and they were wrong,” Herrera said. “Both Democrats and Republicans have recognized the need to expand energy supply and reduce our dependence on foreign oil imports."
Lawmakers voted 223 to 206 against an amendment that would have stripped out provisions from the bill giving oil firms access to the Alaskan wilderness. The White House says energy firms could drill for oil and natural gas on about 2,000 acres of the ANWR’s 19-million acres without harming the environment. Government estimates have said ANWR could hold up to 16-billion barrels of oil, enough to replace the crude the U.S. imports from Iraq for 70 years. The U.S. market consumes close to 20-million barrels of petroleum a day and must now import about 56% of that amount.