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US Senate Allows Oil Drilling in Arctic Wildlife Refuge

The U.S. Senate has voted to allow oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It is a victory for President Bush, who has made opening up the refuge to oil production a key priority of his energy policy.

The chairman of the Senate Energy Committee praised the Senate action, saying opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling would help ease the United States' dependence on oil imports, create jobs, and raise billions of dollars in leasing fees for the federal government.

Senator Pete Domenici is a New Mexico Republican.

"It is time we come to rely on our own states, when they can produce oil for us," said Mr. Domenici.

The Senate action came during consideration of a massive budget bill, which, among other things, calls for allowing oil drilling in the Arctic refuge.

Senators, in a narrow 51 to 48 vote, defeated an amendment that would have removed the drilling authority from the bill.

The amendment's sponsor, Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington state Democrat, said drilling in the Arctic refuge would do little to meet U.S. energy needs and would harm the environment. She said the legislation offers false promises to the American people.

"It is a false promise that they are going to have cheaper gas prices now, or significantly cheaper gas prices in the future," said Ms. Cantwell. "It is a false promise on the amount of revenue that is going to be raised in the budget. It is a false promise that somehow this can be done in an environmentally sensitive way, and that the area that we have called so long, the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, can be preserved as it is."

Later, the Senate voted 86 to 13 to ban oil from Alaska from being exported.

Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, sponsored the amendment.

"This oil is going to go to Asia, and that was confirmed not long ago by oil company executives who came before the Senate Commerce Committee. Without this amendment, there is no assurance that even one drop of Alaskan oil will get to hurting Americans," he said.

The House of Representatives has yet to act on the Alaskan oil drilling measure or the overall budget bill in which it is contained.