Bush Budget Calls for Alaska Refuge Drilling

Half of lease fees would go to renewable energy research programs over seven years

Published: 03-Feb-2004

INGTON, Feb 2 (Reuters) - The Bush administration said Monday it will push Congress this year to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, and hopes to begin leasing tracts in the area to energy companies in 2006.

Even though the Senate has voted several times against giving oil companies access to the refuge, the White House included the drilling plan in its proposed 2005 government budget sent to Congress.

The administration said in its budget that opening the refuge would raise an initial $2.4 billion in leasing fees and half that amount would go toward increased funding for the Energy Department's renewable energy technology research programs over seven years.

The refuge sprawls across 19 million acres (7.7 million hectares). But only the area's 1.5 million acre (607,000 hectare) coastal plain would be opened to drilling under the White House plan.

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