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Filibuster virtually kills energy bill.

A succesful filibuster led by Senate opponents to oil and gas drilling in Alaska's arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has halted Senate floor action on S.1220--The National Energy Security Act of 1991. The prospect of comprehensive energy legislation coming out of the Senate this year is now virtually eliminated.

Heavily debated in the wake of the Persian Gulf War, the Senate bill would have impacted almost every area of energy use in the United States.

In addition to the provisions on ANWR, some of the more controversial sections of the Senate bill included: promoting nuclear power production, overhauling the electric utility industry, setting new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for automobiles, and encouraging the construction of natural gas pipelines.

It was approved by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in late May.

Those opposed to the bill, felt it did not go far enough in promoting energy efficiency, and instead focused on increased fossil fuel production as the main strategy for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. More concern was raised when amendments to strengthen the efficiency portions of the bill--such as raising CAFE standards by statute--were rejected.

The legislation's demise, however, came at the hands of a group of Senators opposed to the ANWR oil drilling provisions. A filibuster was conducted November 1, led by Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Tim Wirth (D-Colo.), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), Richard Bryan (D- Nev.), Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), Al Gore (D-Tenn.), and William Roth, Jr. (R-Del.).

The failure of the Senate to invoke cloture by a vote of 50 to 44 (a vote of 60 is needed to cut short debate and clear the way for a floor vote), caused Energy Committee Chair J. Bennett Johnson to concede defeat. The bill was withdrawn by Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) a few hours later.

The failed cloture vote reflected not only the Senate's opposition to ANWR provisions, but a general lack of consensus on the comprehensive legislation. In a press meeting after the cloture vote, Johnston and the leaders of the filibuster agreed to work together to craft an energy bill that could win broader support. No specific time frame was mentioned, however.

In the same week, the House Energy and Power Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Phil Sharp (D-IN), completed and approved its version of a national energy strategy--H.R.776.

The House bill, which began markup back in July, includes provisions on alternative fuels, overhaul of the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA), renewable energy development and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
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Title Annotation:National Energy Security Act of 1991
Author:Ferrera, Annal Pulido
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 11, 1991
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