Arctic drilling foes find public passion has cooled

Sen. Michael Bennet, left, flanks Sen. Maria Cantwell with Sen. Ed Markey. (Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Sen. Michael Bennet, left, flanks Sen. Maria Cantwell with Sen. Ed Markey. (Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

In the U.S. Senate, opponents of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are having trouble getting the word out.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., on Thursday lamented that the refuge drilling proposal isn’t drawing public outrage like it did more than a decade ago.

“Listen, I know it’s a busy news cycle we live in,” Cantwell said at a press conference she called at the Capitol. “But last time this issue captured the public’s attention, and it’s been out of the public’s attention for a long time.”

Asked what her strategy is, Cantwell said she hoped the reporters present would write a lot, to let people know Arctic refuge drilling could be tucked into the tax cut plan, a proposal that is grabbing bigger headlines.

“We really sincerely hope that we can illuminate for the American people that this choice is being made,” Cantwell said.

Cantwell’s appeal for attention seems a far cry from 2005, when anti-drilling voters jammed Congressional phone lines and knocked on doors in the districts of wavering House members.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski plans to chair a debate in the Energy Committee on the drilling proposal Wednesday.

The measure cleared one hurdle this week: The Congressional Budget Office determined lease sales in ANWR would meet the revenue target of $1 billion for the federal treasury within 10 years.

The proposal calls for a 50-50 revenue split with the state, so according to the CBO estimate, Alaska would also get a billion dollars in the first decade from lease sales in the refuge.

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