Democrats Introduce Alternative to Oil Drilling in Wildlife Refugeby Helen Dewar
Washington Post - December 6, 2001
Plan stresses conservation, development of new resources
WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats on Wednesday unveiled a wide-ranging alternative to Republican energy plans that stresses conservation, efficiency and development of new resources over expanded drilling for oil and gas on public land, including Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The proposal was drafted by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and introduced by Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., who plans to schedule it for debate and possible action in late January or early February.
Describing a bill already passed by the Republican-controlled House as "$34 billion in tax giveaways to the profitable energy companies that helped write the plan," Daschle said the Democrats' version would "strengthen our economy, protect our environment and provide energy security for our nation for decades to come."
Conservative groups denounced the Democrats' bill as a throwback to failed energy policies.
Environmental groups, while hailing the plan in general terms, said major gaps remain, such as details of fuel efficiency proposals.
Sen. Frank Murkowski of Alaska, ranking Republican on the energy panel, accused Democrats of shutting Republicans out of drafting the bill and renewed complaints that energy wasn't scheduled for action this year.
The Daschle-Bingaman bill would encourage use and development of solar, wind and other renewable energy sources, expand use of ethanol and other renewable fuels, introduce more competition into the electricity market, clear barriers to production on land and in waters already open to exploration, and streamline procedures for pipeline certification and relicensing of hydroelectric dams.
To reduce greenhouse gases, a national database would be created to track major sources of emissions. Money would be provided for research on breakthrough technologies to curb global warming.
While drilling would continue to be barred in the Alaska refuge, the bill would provide loan guarantees and streamlined procedures to speed construction of a pipeline to carry natural gas from Alaska's North Slope, which is already open to drilling. Democrats say it would create 400,000 new jobs.
The bill would also launch a study of the feasibility of building a new electric rail system for Amtrak between Boston and Washington.
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