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House committee OKs drilling along coast, in Alaska wildlife refuge

[JURIST] The US House Committee on Resources [official website] on Wednesday approved a budget package [PDF text] that includes provisions to relax a ban on oil and gas drilling along the nation's coast and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [official website]. The Committee voted 24-15 to approve the bill, which would allow states to opt out of a federal moratorium on coastal drilling and will offer leases in the wildlife refuge to oil companies within 22 months. The issue of drilling on the coast and in the Alaskan wilderness has remained a controversial one [JURIST report], with supporters unable to overcome a filibuster in the Senate last spring. However, the current measure in the House and a similar one proposed in the Senate are placed in budget packages not subject to the filibuster, making it more likely that the measures will succeed. Supporters have cited Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] as evidence that the country needs to develop alternative sites for energy production, but some have warned that drilling will have adverse effects on the proposed areas. The Committee has a news release on the approval. AP has more.

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