Provisions to open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and incentives for a North Slope natural gas pipeline are unlikely to emerge from the current lame duck session of U.S. Congress, Washington, D.C., observers say.
Most Republican leaders have concluded it will be best to delay action on ANWR and the gasline until Republicans control the Senate in the new session of Congress next year, a spokesman for Sen. Frank Murkowski told PNA today.
“At this moment there is no sign that the energy bill will move,” he said.
No meetings of the House-Senate conference committee on the energy bill were scheduled as of today.
Lawmakers might “cannibalize the bill for certain items,” such as gas pipeline safety rules and the Price-Anderson Act, which extends liability limits of nuclear plant operators, the spokesman said, putting off more contentious elements until next year.
Republicans won a Senate majority in this month’s elections, but they are not yet in control because Dean Barkley, interim senator from Minnesota, is unaligned with either party. Republican Norm Coleman will succeed him in January.
“Senator Paul Wellstone, whose term I have been appointed to fulfill, was one of the most independent thinkers in the long history of the Congress. Rather than adding to the partisanship that so often characterizes Congress, I would like to focus on bridging differences and helping to move important legislation forward,” Barkley said in a statement.
When the Senate reconvenes next year, Republicans will hold at least 51 seats. Two races are unresolved. South Dakota incumbent Democrat Tim Johnson has a slim margin of about 500 votes over Republican John Thune, which could lead to a recount. In Louisiana, incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu faces a runoff against Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell.