October 14, 2001
Maneuvering Continues on Plan to Drill for Oil in Arctic Refuge
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
ASHINGTON, Oct. 13 — Lawmakers continued to maneuver at week's end over the
Bush administration's plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife
Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader, offered on Friday to
allow a vote on the matter on the Senate floor. Aides said Mr. Daschle, who
opposes drilling, was willing to allow the vote because he was confident
that Republicans did not have the 60 votes needed to break an expected Democratic
But Republicans, backed by the White House, are pressing for a
straight majority vote, which Republican vote counters on Capitol Hill say
they believe they would win.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters strongly backs the drilling
measure, and pro-drilling forces hope that organized labor can win over some
Democrats who will be under pressure from environmentalists to vote against
it. The Teamsters were successful in helping to push the measure through
As an alternative, Mr. Daschle said he would support construction
of a natural gas pipeline from Alaska's North Slope, a project that could
produce 400,000 jobs. Trillions of cubic feet of gas are being extracted
now, along with oil, but the gas is being reinserted into the ground because
there is no pipeline to transport it.
"If we need to tap into the resources of Alaska, let's do it with
this pipeline," Mr. Daschle said.
In exchange for a vote on the pipeline, he said, "I'm even willing
to give them a vote on, or in relation to, the whole question of drilling
in this most sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."
The whole energy bill is in flux, but Democrats indicated that
it could be brought to the floor before Congress adjourns in a few weeks.
Republicans like the idea of the gas pipeline but say it is no
substitute for increasing the nation's supply of oil.
Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton said in an interview on Friday
that both projects were desirable.
"We are already working on it," Ms. Norton said of the gas pipeline.
She added: "We've been talking to those who would build the pipeline.
We don't need legislation to carry forward with the early stages."
Environmentalists have complained that oil drilling in the Alaskan
refuge would not yield any oil for at least seven years, and would then yield
enough for only 140 days. Echoing President Bush's comments on Thursday that
the less dependent the nation was on foreign oil, the more secure it was,
Ms. Norton said that every bit helped, especially with the nation fighting
"If we knew we didn't have to rely on any other country for our
oil for the next six months, that's something that would be quite valuable
to us," Ms. Norton said. "In today's climate, we need to look at those things
that will provide us an extra margin of security."
The oil would not be used up all at once, she said, but could be
available to be tapped as needed.
Senator Frank H. Murkowski, the Alaska Republican who is leading
the fight in the Senate for drilling, said he saw "some progress" in Senator
Daschle's comments today, but not enough.
Mr. Murkowski said that by not allowing a straight majority vote,
Mr. Daschle was "using the rules to subvert the will of the majority of the
"If he wants to put a 60-vote requirement on an issue as important
to national security as energy," Mr. Murkowski said, "each senator is going
to have to recognize his obligations to our national security as opposed
to environmental extremists."