ANWR Drilling Advances:

Despite fierce opposition from many Democratic senators, drilling plans for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge were pushed forward Thursday when the U.S. Senate voted to permit an oil and gas leasing program to be set up on ANWR??¢â???¬â???¢s coastal plain.

By a narrow vote of 51 to 48, drilling supporters slapped down an effort by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D.-Wash.) to remove the ANWR provision from the budget bill. Co-sponsors of Cantwell??¢â???¬â???¢s amendment included Democratic Senators John Kerry (Mass.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Hillary Clinton (N.Y.).

??¢â???¬?????This vote is a great victory for the American people,??¢â???¬  said Sen. George Allen (R.-Va.), a member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. ??¢â???¬?????For years, the American taxpayers??¢â???¬â???¢ wallets have been pinched by our country??¢â???¬â???¢s over-dependence on foreign sources of oil and gas which causes higher energy prices in everything from driving cars, to manufacturing, to heating homes.??¢â???¬ 

ANWR contains 19 million acres but no more than 2,000 acres are to be leased and used in energy production, according to both the Senate and House bills. Drilling proponents say the leasing program could yield more than $2.4 billion in federal revenues and produce more than 10 billion barrels of oil.