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The fight over ANWR.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is a 19-million-acre area of federally protected wilderness in Alaska. For years, lawmakers, environmentalists, and Alaskans have fought over whether to open Lip the refuge for oil exploration, Drilling advocates, backed by a Republican majority in Congress, are now closer than ever to having their way.

Supporters of the drilling, including President George W. Bush, say that it is necessary to keep the U.S. from becoming more dependent on foreign oil. Many Alaskans speak of the jobs and other revenue that would flow into the state. "It's as important to me as the first step [Neil] Armstrong Took when he stepped on the moon." said Senator Ted Stevens, one of Alaska's two Republican Senators.

Environmental groups fear that drilling may destroy one of the last unspoiled habitats in the United States. They warn of damage to wildlife and ecosystems that could result from oil spills and the huge infrastructure that drilling would require. "We're talking about hundreds of miles of pipelines and roads ... electric plants and pumping stations," said Jim Waltman of the Wilderness Society.

Drilling advocates have tried several times to push legislation through Congress, so far unsuccessfully. But last month, a bill that would allow drilling narrowly passed the Republican-dominated Senate.

Even so, no one expects opponents of drilling to give up. "It will be a long, hard fight before they punch a hole in the Arctic," said Marty Hayden of Earthjustice, an environmental law firm.
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Title Annotation:ENVIRONMENT
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Date:Apr 25, 2005
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