You remember the intense debate over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? It’s back on…

From this story on MSNBC:


_Politicians, environmentalists and oil executives: Man your battle stations! The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the pre-eminent environment-energy issue during the George W. Bush administration, is back.

__This time it’s not environmentalists trying to stop oil wells from popping up along and off the coastal plain of the refuge–it’s pro-drilling folks vowing to stop an attempt to declare that area off limits by making it federal wilderness. A few key things have changed this time around: There’s that recession and the clamor for jobs that new drilling would provide over the years; and, of course, there’s that oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Drilling supporters–especially Alaska’s lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike–are upset over a federal review that could end up closing the door to drilling there, ever.

The decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service to review three refuge areas for possible designation as wilderness didn’t make it on the national radar when it was announced Monday. But in Alaska, the reaction was swift and clear, since the refuge is thought to have 11 billion barrels of recoverable oil. “It’s a proposed waste of the oil and natural gas resources that belong to all Americans,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the senior Republican on the Senate Environment Committee, said in a press release. “This is a blatant political move by the administration and clearly violates the promise of no more administrative wilderness designations in Alaska.”

“…Environmentalists, for their part, are ecstatic about the wilderness reviews. “For decades the oil industry has sought to destroy this unique wilderness refuge, despite the fact that it represents the only place on Alaska’s North Slope that is legislatively closed to development,” said Cindy Shogan, head of the Alaska Wilderness League. “The tragic BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico has shown that oil drilling is a dangerous, dirty business,” she added. “The Arctic Refuge is one of the last true wilderness areas left in the United States ˜ some places are just too special to sacrifice to oil and gas development.”