San Diego Union-Tribune

October 2, 2001

Senate may tangle over energy issue


WASHINGTON -- The bipartisan cooperation that has reigned on Capitol Hill since last month's terrorist attacks could be tested in the Senate today
over energy policy.

Senators are expected to vote on a motion to limit debate on a defense authorization bill that President Bush has called vital. If the motion succeeds, it would probably derail an effort to attach controversial energy legislation to the bill.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., said he filed the energy amendments to draw attention to the nation's dependence on foreign oil at a time when the energy debate has faded from the political scene.

"My goal has simply been to raise awareness about the importance of these national energy issues and help advance a legislative way to address them," he said.

But foes of the energy legislation -- which, among other production and conservation measures, would open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
to oil drilling -- decried Inhofe's move.

"It's really unfortunate that some members of Congress are using this awful (terrorism) event to forward their political agendas," said Melanie Griffin, director of land protection programs for the Sierra Club.

The House passed the defense bill last week.

Inhofe spokesman Gary Hoitsma said the senator was still hoping to reach an agreement with Democratic leaders on a time frame for debating energy legislation. But he acknowledged that little progress was being made. By limiting debate, critics of the energy package could restrict the number of amendments.

Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he would "not agree . . . to attempts to force through a one-sided energy bill or to short-circuit Senate consideration of
these important issues."

Bingaman was reacting to Inhofe's amendments and a push by several other Republican senators to put the energy legislation on a fast track.