FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The nonprofit group that lobbies for the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to petroleum drilling is regrouping after the latest rejection by Congress.
Lobbyists for Arctic Power said they are not sure what the future holds. They will talk with Sen. Ted Stevens and rethink a strategy, they said, then follow the senator's lead.
The U.S. Senate last week refused to include the drilling measure in a defense spending bill.
Jerry Hood, an Arctic Power lobbyist, said the group is not ready to give up.
"They say, 'I don't know if you can ever do it,' " Hood said. "I don't really believe that. I think we can."
David van den Berg, director of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, said that with a $1.2 billion surplus, the Legislature likely would continue to support the organization.
"I wouldn't be surprised if legislators doubled it next year," van den Berg said of the state's contribution to Arctic Power. "They continue to be hopeful, but they need to have it sink in that from a national perspective, the interest in draining America first doesn't work. I just think they're barking up the wrong tree."
The Legislature has given Arctic Power millions of dollars over the past decade, including $1.2 million this year. Past supporters continue to back the group.
"I've always thought, and I hope to think others think, of Arctic Power as an investment to help the next generation of Alaskans," said state Sen. Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks, co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Rep. Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla, who sponsored a bill giving Arctic Power money this year, hopes the state keeps supporting the organization.
"They are an excellent staff and have done a great job in lobbying to open the coastal plain," said Kohring. "As far as whether we continue with further money, it will be up to my colleagues in Juneau."
"We've really waited to hear from Sen. Stevens as to what to do, and at what level," Wilken said.
If the Legislature or the Senate Finance Committee continues to see Arctic Power as an investment, they will find money for the group in the budget next year, he said.
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