Alaskan oil plan stalled

Jamie Wilson

Washington: Environment campaigners were on Wednesday night celebrating an improbable victory after the U.S. Senate narrowly blocked a Republican plan to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Supporters of drilling fell four votes short of the required 60 votes to avoid a Democrat-led filibuster — a procedural move to delay or derail legislation. Republicans had hoped to win passage by making the oil drilling issue part of a defence spending bill that has earmarked money for troops in Iraq and relief for Hurricane Katrina victims. Because of the vote, Senate leaders are expected to rework the bill to eliminate the oil-drilling proposal. The refuge, which sprawls along Alaska's northern coast and may hold 10 billion barrels of oil, has been the focus of bitter wrangling in Congress for more than two decades. Most Senate Democrats and some moderate Republicans said the frigid wilderness and its wildlife should be protected. But the Bush administration has said the refuge must be opened up to drilling to halt a steady slide in U.S. crude production and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. David Willett, of the environmental group the Sierra Club, said: ``This was a sneak attack to try and force arctic drilling on the American people and the Senate clearly rebuffed it.''

- Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

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