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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Budget bill said to be missing ANWR language

The Associated Press reports this afternoon that the federal budget bill agreed to by a House and Senate conference committee does not include specific language relating to ANWR drilling. However, it does include a $2.4 billion chunk of revenue that matches expected revenue from the initial round of drilling leases in the refuge.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he will include revenues from oil lease sales in the refuge to help meet the budget requirements. Such a move essentially would authorize drilling there.

But it is not certain the House will follow the Senate's lead. A spokesman for Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., chair of the House Resources Committee, said Pombo has not decided whether to turn to the refuge to meet budget obligations.

House leaders apparently want to limit the number of times the issue comes up for a vote. They are fearful of losing support among moderate Republicans -- perhaps an indication of faltering support overall for drilling in the refuge.

The AP reports the House may wait until negotiations with the Senate on a final budget reconciliation plan - probably in the fall - before agreeing to include the drilling proposal. This would require only one House floor vote about the refuge as part of the budget process.

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