House panel OKs funds for lobbyists pushing oil drilling

Posted: Monday, May 07, 2001

Arctic Power, the nonprofit group lobbying to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, would receive $2 million under the House Finance Committee version of the state public works budget.

The Finance Committee added the money late Saturday night to the bill, known as the capital budget, for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Finance Co-Chairman Eldon Mulder, an Anchorage Republican, said U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young requested the money to help lobby for ANWR drilling as part of President George W. Bush's energy plan.

"It has to be a sustained effort," Mulder said.

Rep. John Davies, a Fairbanks Democrat, tried to amend the appropriation on the House floor Sunday to make it contingent on the oil industry matching the state's $2 million.

"It actually would help Arctic Power because it would double our contribution," Davies said.

Mulder argued against the amendment.

"This is first and foremost a state fight," Mulder said.

Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, an Anchorage Democrat, noted the ANWR amendment was OK'd shortly after the House defeated an amendment by Davies to add $2 million to the University of Alaska budget.

"What we're saying here is we're giving $2 million to the education of America, but we just turned down $2 million for the education of Alaskans," he said.

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