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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Update (11-19-02)

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the northeast corner of Alaska has long been a divisive issue for geoscientists and the public alike with arguments advanced on both sides concerning oil exploration on the refuge's coastal plain.  The energy concerns raised at the end of the 106th Congress and into the 107th have spurred action by the Administration and Congress to create a national energy policy with ANWR viewed by the Administration as the centerpiece for its efforts to increase domestic oil production. Additional information on proposed energy policy legislation is available at the AGI Energy Policy Update.  Several Congressional Research Service reports available at the National Library for the Environment provide a historical overview of the ANWR debate and how it related to current energy legislation.  The U.S. Geological Survey released a report in 1998 that estimated the potential oil reserves in ANWR as a part of the National Oil and Gas Assessment. In May 2000, the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) released a report containing projections of future daily production rates from ANWR based on the 1998 USGS resource assessment.

Petroleum geologists, concerned with decreasing exploration in the United States, are eager to see ANWR opened for exploration. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists has developed a position statement supporting exploration in ANWR.  Other geoscientists, concerned with the impact that drilling might have on the wilderness, have opposed the proposal.  Still others believe that drilling ANWR at some time in the future should remain a viable option but exploitation of known reserves on other federal lands should be a priority.  Regardless of what their views might be, geoscientists have certainly played an important role in providing policy makers with data on the refuge and its oil potential.

Most Recent Action

The New York Times and E&E Daily both report that the incoming chairmen of the Senate Budget Committee and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee -- Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), respectively -- may seek to use a filibuster-proof budget bill to obtain approval of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Known as budget reconciliation, this type of bill is exempted from filibusters, which require a 60-vote majority to break. Opening ANWR was included in such a bill in 1995, but that bill was vetoed by President Clinton. ANWR opponents led by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) have repeatedly threatened to filibuster any legislation to open ANWR. In test votes earlier this year, a provision to drill ANWR as part of comprehensive energy legislation did not obtain even a simple majority (see AGI Special Update 5-8-02), and it is unclear that ANWR supporters will have additional votes in the new Senate. The proposal by Nickles and Domenici, however, signals that this issue is likely to come up early in the new year. (11/19/02)

From an AGI Special Update (11-15-02): A conference committee of representatives and senators began meeting last summer to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of comprehensive energy legislation (H.R. 4) intended to establish a new national energy policy. Before breaking for the elections, the conference committee had worked out compromise language on hundreds of pages of bill text but had yet to find consensus on some of the largest issues -- such as the House provision to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil and gas exploration and Senate provisions regarding climate change. The election results seemed to confirm the talk before the elections that the energy bill would be pushed off to the 108th Congress. But on November 13th, Conference Committee Chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA) attempted to revive the debate by suggesting passage of a stripped-down bill that would include only provisions related to the Price-Anderson Act (insurance for nuclear power plants) and pipeline safety. Senate conferees quickly rejected the suggestion as did the White House, which indicated that any bill not including electric utility restructuring would be vetoed. Energy legislation will likely become one of the early issues for the 108th Congress.

In early October, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA), the chairman of the bicameral conference committee on comprehensive energy legislation (H.R. 4), continued to express high hopes that the committee would be able to hammer out differences between the House and Senate versions before Congress adjourned on October 11th. But prospects dimmed with compromise elusive on some of the biggest provisions. There has been some talk of House Republicans consenting to Senate Democrats on climate change provisions in exchange for the House ANWR provision, but initial votes suggest that such a trade has little chance of making it into the final bill. Even if a provision for oil and gas exploration in ANWR made if out of the conference, the Senate would still have to break a promised filibuster by Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and John Kerry (D-MA). Adding to the mix is pressure from the White House to finish the energy bill with ANWR in it -- Interior Secretary Gale Norton has requested that the president veto any energy bill that does not contain an ANWR provision. (10/4/02)

By a vote of 88 to 11, the Senate passed its version of energy legislation, paving the way for a House-Senate conference to work out a final bill. The large number of supporting votes reflected a desire by both the Senate leadership and the White House to complete action and move to conference where the administration and congressional Republicans hope to restore key provisions found in the House counterpart, H.R.4. Unlike the House-passed bill, S. 517 does not include a provision opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Instead, the bill calls for opening a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope of Alaska to the state's southern coast. (4/26/02)

In early April, the national energy policy debate was in full swing in the Senate as they debated the Democratic leadership's Energy Security Policy bill, S. 517.  ANWR is among the most hotly debated issues along with reformulated gasoline standard (RFG), fuel efficiency standards, and renewable portfolio standards (RPS). Also adding to the highly partisan ANWR debate was the leadership's attempts to force a cloture vote on the issue before moving ahead with the other provisions of the energy policy. If Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the leading proponent of opening ANWR, plans to offer an amendment regarding exploration and development of ANWR, it most likely will be introduced in the second week of April, when the Senate returns from its spring recess. (4/3/02)

Previous Action in the 107th Congress
The combination of current events -- high gasoline prices, rolling blackouts in California, and the recent collapse of Enron --  has kept energy on the front burner in the 107th Congress.  Several comprehensive energy bills have been introduced, acted upon, and puttered during the first session of this Congress.  The most controversial provisions in many of these bills regarding opening ANWR for exploration and development.  In February 2001, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK), then Chairman of the Senate Energy and Resources Committee, introduced his National Energy Security Act of 2001 (S.388 and S.389) that includes a plan for oil and gas exploration in ANWR.  The bill's Title V -- Arctic Coastal Plain Domestic Energy Security Act of 2001 -- directs the Secretary of the Interior to establish an oil and gas leasing program for the 1002 section of ANWR.  Title V includes measures to prevent environmental degradation and requires the use of current technology for exploration, development, and production.  It also sets aside a portion of bonuses from oil and gas leases for funding of renewable energy research and development. Murkowski's bills were dropped in June 2001 when Sen. James Jeffords left the Republican party to become an Independent -- switching the control of the Senate to the Democrats.

While the Senate used last summer to work out the transition of power, the House of Representatives and the Bush Administration moved ahead on comprehensive energy policy proposals.  As part of his fiscal year (FY) 2002 budget request, President George W. Bush included a provision in the Department of Energy's portion of the budget that would use bonuses paid by successful bidders for permission to explore ANWR to fund research in alternative energy technology.  Under the Administration's plan, these funds -- up to $1.2 billion -- would be received in 2004.  Bush's FY2002 budget proposal A Blueprint for New Beginnings: A Responsible Budget for America's Priorities can be downloaded from the White House Office of Management and Budget website. (3/1/01)

On May 17th, President George W. Bush released the National Energy Policy (NEP) put together by a task force, headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, that included several members of the president's Cabinet.  Cheney wrote in the opening note of the report that it "envisions a comprehensive long-term strategy that uses leading edge technology to produce an integrated energy, environmental and economic policy."  The report makes 105 recommendations of which 12 can be accomplished by executive order, another 73 can be accomplished by agency action, and the remaining 20 recommendations require congressional action.  The NEP included the proposal in the president's FY2002 budget to use ANWR lease bonuses to fund research in renewable and alternative fules.  More information is available in an AGI special update and at the AGI Energy Policy Update.

In the House of Representatives, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) introduced H.R. 4, the SAFE Act of 2001.  The bill, based largely on the Bush Administration's energy plan, included a provision allowing exploration activity in ANWR.  On August 2nd, the House passed its version of comprehensive energy legislation, H.R. 4. ANWR was a key issue in the floor debate.  An amendment to keep ANWR closed was rejected 206-223, but an amendment introduced by Rep. John Sununu (R-NH) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) to limit the scope of exploration available for exploration to 2000 acres out of a possible 1.5 million acres passed in a 228-201 vote.  The final bill passed in a 240-189 vote. (8/7/01)

ANWR became a topic of discussion last year when Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) tried to add language to the fiscal year 2002 defense authorization bill (S.1438) to allow drilling in ANWR unless the Senate agreed to debate an energy package before lawmakers adjourn in October.  Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK), the biggest backer of  ANWR drilling, opposed this action.  Murkowski said that it would be in "poor taste" to use the terrorist attacks to push opening the refuge through the defense spending bill.  Senator Inhofe argued that since the U.S. military relies on energy supplies to carry out its duties, it is important to our military readiness and national security that energy policy be reviewed right away. Supporters of drilling in ANWR argue that the oil supply in the refuge could provide enough crude to replace imports from Iraq for 70 years.

Despite this month's terrorist attacks, Canada remains opposed to drilling in ANWR, specifically because it would destroy the coastal calving ground of the Porcupine caribou herd, on which Gwich'in Indians are dependent for their livelihood.  Canadian Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale contends that there are plenty of other energy sources that could be developed in Canada and the U.S. before touching ANWR, including the vast tar sands of Alberta, offshore developments on the east coast, and hydroelectric power.  (9/25/01)

Senate action on a comprehensive energy policy recommenced in Fall 2001, with the new Democrat leadership providing its proposal (S. 1766) and many senators wanting action on an issue that had been stalled by events of September 11th.  President Bush urged the Senate to pass an energy bill that would allow drilling in ANWR, referring to the issue as a matter of national security because it would reduce the nation's reliance on foreign oil.  Bush's effort to revive this issue followed an October 9th decision by Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) to invoke a seldom-used Senate Rule under which Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) will offer a proposed energy bill on the Senate floor without his committee voting on it.  This rule gives Daschle power to bypass committees and shape the bill more directly.  The Democrats' energy bill is expected to be brought to the floor before Congress adjourns next month and is not expected to authorize drilling in ANWR. According to the October 10 Greensheets, Bingaman said that the decision was made to suspend discussion of the bill in order to "avoid quarrelsome, divisive votes in committee ... and avoid those contentious issues that divide, rather than unite us."  Angered by the decision, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) stated that the reason Democrats did not want to bring up the bill was because they knew they would lose and because they wanted to deprive President Bush of a victory.  Despite Congress's efforts since September 11th to present a unified front and support the president, this energy bill issue is a reminder of the deep partisan divisions still present below the surface.   (10/12/01)

ANWR is at the heart of a running battle between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate over energy legislation. Since Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) announced that he would not take up energy legislation before the 107th Congress adjourns its first session sometime in December, Senate Republicans have made several attempts to attach the House-passed energy bill (H.R. 4), which includes a provision to allow drilling in ANWR, as an amendment to pending legislation.  They first targeted the economic stimulus package, but when that stalled, all eyes moved to the farm bill.  When action on that was delayed, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) filed H.R. 4 as an amendment to a railroad pension bill (H.R. 10) that Daschle had put on the floor for consideration.

On November 15th, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) renewed his and Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) threat to filibuster on the Senate floor any provision that aims to open ANWR to drilling.  Lieberman, adamantly against drilling in the refuge, said that he would even go so far as to filibuster the economic stimulus package, if necessary.  He believes that ANWR supporters do not have the 60 votes required to stop the filibuster. Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) and other ANWR supporters have argued that drilling in the refuge is a matter of national security because it would reduce the nation's reliance on foreign oil.  Since September 11th, more members have agreed that the nation should reduce its reliance on oil from the Middle East.  They do not, however, agree on how this goal should be accomplished.  While many Republicans, including President Bush, argue that domestic drilling is the answer, other lawmakers push for conservation strategies such as raising fuel economy standards and moving toward the use of renewable energy sources, among others. (11/19/01)

Republican attempts to force a vote on energy legislation and the ANWR issue went awry on December 3rd when the Senate denied a motion to invoke cloture -- a procedure limiting debate -- on an amendment that would have attached House-passed energy legislation (H.R. 4) to a pension reform bill (H.R. 10).  The motion was presented by Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) who hoped to get the 60 votes needed to block a Democrat-threatened filibuster.  However, Republicans abandoned the effort when it became apparent that they would not even get the 50 votes needed to send a pro-ANWR message. Instead, those who had already voted for the motion switched their vote, and the motion was defeated in a 94-1 vote. The energy/ANWR amendment was subsequently ruled non-germane (not relevant to the pending legislation) and dropped from consideration.   If the cloture motion had passed, debate on the amendment would have been limited to 30 additional hours prior to voting.  In an attempt to explain the Republican shift, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) argued that invoking cloture would have blocked the full and open debate that energy policy deserves.  The motion's defeat was a clear blow to the Bush Administration's energy goals because the strength of the pro-ANWR vote in the Senate is now highly questionable.   (12/5/01)

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released a report requested by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) that analyses a range of issues related to S. 1766 and H.R. 4, two of the key comprehensive energy bills currently under congressional review.  One of the issues to be addressed in the report was the effect of oil from ANWR would have on the nation's dependency on foreign oil.  Entitled "The Effects of the Alaska Oil and Natural Gas Provisions of H.R. 4 and S. 1766 on U.S. Energy Markets," the report found that ANWR oil production would reduce the percentage share of net imports by 2 percent on average -- dropping imports to 60 percent versus 62 if ANWR is not drilled --and by 5 percent at most. According to the report, "because the coastal plain of ANWR has had little exploration activity, there is considerable uncertainty in the size of the oil resources that might be eventually recovered."  Sen. Murkowski, the Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Energy and Resources Committee, requested an EIA report in December 2001 to analyize Alaskan oil production under different scenarios.   Senate Committee on Energy and Resources Aide Dan Kish said, "I guess it's better than going [from] 62 to 64 percent."      (3/14/02)

Two recent reports are sure to further fuel the debate. A new report by biologists at the U.S. Geological Survey, Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain Terrestrial Wildlife Research Summaries, claims that under certain scenarios, ANWR exploration and drilling would have an impact on Porcupine caribou, musk oxen, snow geese and polar bears. The report provides five fictional scenarios that analyze the environmental effects of ANWR development on the Porcupine Caribou.  The outcome of the scenarios shows that impact on the Porcupine Caribou may range from minimal to extreme.  A cover memo by USGS Director Charles Groat states that additional impact scenarios for the Porcupine Caribou herd will be published in order to provide as much pertinent information to Congress for the pending decision. (4/3/02)

At the request of the Interior Department's leadership, the USGS issued a supplemental report one week after an initial report (Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain Terrestrial Wildlife Research Summaries) on biological impacts of drilling in ANWR.  The original report provided five scenarios, two of which reported minimal effects on caribou.  Although the original report stated minimal to extreme effects on caribou herds, the USGS has been criticized for providing scenarios that are not probable under the House-passed Energy Bill H.R. 4.  The supplemental report states that the drilling scenarios currently under consideration could occur with very minimal effects on the Porcupine Caribou herd. Under H.R. 4, the proposed plan would limit infrastructure to 2,000 non-contiguous acres.  Department of the Interior spokesman Eric Ruff said, "this new information demonstrates once again that we can protect wildlife and produce energy in an environmentally responsible way."  Drilling opponents say that the supplemental report is political damage control and stress the initial interpretation of the report billed as an anti-ANWR publication.  Drilling supporters state that the report should have focused on the more probable development scenario, rather than a spectrum of various impacts. (4/12/02)

After a month of floor debate and press coverage, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) introduced his amendment to S. 517 that would open ANWR for oil and gas exploration and development.  The amendment (S. Amdt. 3132) was designated "To create jobs for Americans, to reduce dependence on foreign sources of crude oil and energy, to strengthen the economic self determination of the Inupiat Eskimos and to promote national security." In an effort to secure additional votes, the ANWR amendment also included a provision providing pension benefits for displaced steelworkers and another ensuring that the only ANWR oil exports allowed would be for Israel. The effort was futile as the Senate voted 46-54 on April 18th on a cloture motion that effectively measured whether the amendment would be considered in the bill. (4/20/02)

Congress created the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in 1980 through the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.  ANWR extends over 19 million acres in the state's northeast corner, making it the second-largest refuge in the United States.  Although drilling has never been allowed in the refuge, Congress left open the possibility of drilling in 1.5 million acres of the northern Alaskan coastal plain in section 1002 of the Act (hence known as the 1002 area). This plain encompasses territory between the Brooks Range and the Beaufort Sea.

The Alaska delegation has been seeking to open ANWR for exploration ever since it was created.  Legislation to do so passed Congress in 1995 as part of an omnibus budget reconciliation bill (making changes in the federal government's mandatory spending obligations and revenues), but the bill was vetoed by President Clinton in part due to his opposition to the ANWR provision.  Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt called ANWR "America's Serengeti" because of its incredible biodiversity.  While opposing exploration in ANWR, Babbitt did approve drilling in Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve (NPRA), another large parcel of the Arctic coastal plain located in the state's northwest corner, opposite ANWR.  Babbitt's move was widely viewed as an effort to relieve pressure on ANWR.  See the AGI Update on National Petroleum Reserve from the 106th Congress for more information.

Much of the action with regard to ANWR in the 106th Congress occurred during the appropriations process.  But all attempts to add last minute provisions to appropriations bills for opening ANWR were later retracted or vetoed by President Clinton.  Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK), and Rep. Don Young (R-AK) both introduced legislation in the 106th Congress encouraging oil and gas exploration in ANWR, but neither were brought to a floor vote.  The AGI ANWR Update for the 106th Congress has more information.

Sources: Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, E&E Daily, hearing documents, Library of Congress, The New York Times, U.S. Geological Survey, White House, and Washington Post.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Contributed by Margaret A. Baker and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program, AGI/AAPG Spring 2002 Intern Heather R. Golding, AGI/AAPG Fall 2001 Intern Catherine Macris, and AGI/AAPG Spring 2001 intern Mary H. Patterson.

Posted August 7, 2001; Last updated November 19, 2002

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