Alaskan North Slope Opened for Drilling

While the U.S. Senate was involved with a critical vote on the massive energy bill that President Bush endorsed, the Department of the Interior was revealing its oil and gas leasing plan.

However, the Senate denied the President his top energy priority of opening ANWR for oil exploration. None of the 8.8 million acres are in the wildlife refuge, but some of the acres to be drill on are in some sensitive areas important to the protection of migratory birds, whales, and wildlife.

Geologists estimate that there are 22.5 million acres in the government?s National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska that contain 6 billion to 13 billion barrels of oil. The Department of the Interior said the leasing plan would maximize the production of oil and gas resources in an environmentally sound manner while protecting the region?s natural resources and wildlife.

Environmentalists said that the leasing plan would jeopardize Arctic tundra, lakes and ponds which provide sanctuary to wildlife and migratory species. The Natural Resource Defense Council claims that the Bush Administration is simply rewarding its friends in the oil and gas industry.