Alaska’s GOP congressional delegation is trying to attach a rider to a 2001 budget measure that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. The remote 1.5 million-acre coastal plain in Alaska is home to a wide array of wildlife, including caribou and polar bears, and enviros argue that it should be left in its pristine state. But the oil industry believes the area is ripe for a major oil discovery, and Alaska lawmakers are using high oil prices as an excuse to try to open it to drilling. President Clinton has said that he opposes drilling in ANWR, but environmentalists are still gearing up for a big fight on the issue. Enviros do have one unexpected ally, though: Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.), the new chair of the Senate Environment Committee, said this week that he no longer supports drilling in ANWR and instead believes the area should be protected as wilderness.
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