Federal budget could expand oil drilling in Alaska

    Washington DC (KINY) Oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one step closer today.

    The Republican-controlled Senate approved a measure last night that allows oil and gas exploration in the remote area of Alaska.  Republicans Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska said Congress can create jobs and enhance energy security by opening a small section of the 19.6 million-acre site to drilling.

    There is opposition from Democrats who worry about long term environmental impacts and impacts on wildlife.  Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state said drilling was not worth the risks to a fragile ecosytem that serves as important habitat for polar bears, caribou and migratory birds.

    Republican Susan Collins of Maine joined with Democrats to oppose opening the refuge, while Democrat Joe Manchin backed drilling.

    Officials don't expect any oil drilling to begin for several years.

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