Prospects for Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) oil and natural gas exploration received a boost with the Senate passage of a $2.8 trillion budget blueprint last night. The budget includes a provision that earmarks some leasing revenues toward Gulf Coast levees and other coastline restoration activites. The ANWR provision was included in an amendment offered by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), which passed by voice vote shortly before the Senate voted 51-49 to approve the budget blueprint.
Vitter's amendment would mandate a $10 billion Gulf Coast Protection, Reconstruction and Recovery Fund, funded by revenues from ANWR, offshore drilling receipts and digital spectrum sales. The Senate also passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) which would use ANWR dollars to help fund energy programs authorized by the last year's Energy Policy Act. The amendment would divert $150 million annually from projected ANWR revenues in 2009 through 2011 for these programs.