Alaska News

Senators launch new effort to open ANWR to drilling

WASHINGTON -- Hoping to capitalize on the concerns of consumers at the gas pump, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens introduced legislation today that would allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge if the price of oil hits $125 a barrel.

The senators hope that high oil prices, hovering at $110 a barrel this morning, will change the minds of fellow senators who, until now, have been opposed to opening the refuge to drilling.

"I think there was a time when we thought we would never see those prices," Murkowski said. "We've got to act as a nation to produce more for our country's needs. The reliance we have on foreign sources of oil, we all know, are at unhealthy levels."

Environmentalists say they are confident Murkowski and Stevens don't have 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster that would allow the bill to be heard.

They're also confident that outside of Alaska, there isn't public support for drilling in a national wildlife refuge, said Myke Bybee, a spokesman for the Sierra Club.

"No amount of oil and no amount of money is worth despoiling the Arctic Refuge," Bybee said. "I don't think there's support for opening up a special place like the Arctic refuge at any cost, at any amount of oil or at any cost of oil."

By Erika Bolstad