GOP moderates derail drilling plans for Arctic Refuge and offshore areas

Opponents of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge got some shocking good news last night: 25 moderate House Republicans, led by Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.), defied pressure from the GOP leadership and vowed to oppose a $54 billion, filibuster-proof budget bill unless provisions allowing drilling in the refuge and in offshore areas around the country were eliminated — and promises made they would not return. And lo, in late-night negotiations, House GOP leaders blinked; the provisions are gone. This unexpected development of moderate GOP spine is a blow to the Bush administration’s plans for expanded dirty-energy production, but the struggle ain’t over. Senate drilling monomaniacs Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) say they’ll bottle the legislation up well into 2006 if the final version doesn’t include Arctic Refuge drilling. But the House coalition avers it’ll stand firm. Elephant fight! Elephant fight!