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An even dozen: Young-backed ANWR bill passes U.S. House a 12th time

Amanda Coyne

The U.S. House on Thursday voted on a transportation bill that would, among other things, open a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling as well as more of Alaska’s offshore waters.

It passed 237 to 187.

U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., worked to the get bill through the House Resources Committee. They were helped by a group of Alaska state lawmakers, including House Speaker Mike Chenault and Rep. Reggie Joule, who made a trip to D.C. to lobby for the bill.

The bill must still must make it through the Senate, which, if history is any guide, is a daunting proposition.

This was the 12th time Young has been able to get a bill that would open at least part of ANWR passed by the House. The only one that made it through the Senate died on President Bill Clinton's desk.

Still, he called it a “momentous day.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich thinks that this time the drilling in ANWR has a better shot -- maybe not tomorrow, but soon. New technology allows drillers to have a smaller footprint than ever before, and, because he's a Democrat, Begich believes he has a better shot of talking fellow Democrats into supporting drilling. "Sen. Begich believes by showing others how Alaska can do energy development responsibly, we will slowly build the case for development in ANWR," he said through his spokesperson.

Worldwide events may play into the debate, too. Because of tensions in Iran, a cold snap in Europe and good news on the U.S. economic front, oil prices are rising.

Brent crude, which is used to price foreign oil imported by U.S. refineries, rose $1.08 to $120.01 in London. Alaska North Slope crude closed at $120.30 on Wednesday, and will likely continue to rise. As it does so, consumers will pay more at the pump.

What happens if this year's measure fails, as so many others have? Young, at least, will keep plugging away. "I'm not only eternally optimistic; if you don't keep trying you're never going to get anything done," Young told Alaska Dispatch last week.

Contact Amanda Coyne at Amanda(at)alaskadispatch.com