Renewed Debate on Energy Policy Ahead for Mitchell

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell said Thursday he looked forward to renewing the debate soon over energy policy and indicated revised energy legislation might reach the Senate floor by next week.

A compromise energy bill was quietly resubmitted this week after two of its most controversial provisions _ one that would open drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge and another that would require improvements in auto fuel economy _ were deleted.

The two controversial issues caused energy legislation to stall in the Senate last November.

Sen. Bennett Johnston, D-La., a chief sponsor of that bill, said Thursday he has resubmitted virtually the same bill, but without the Alaska drilling and auto fuel efficiency sections, and hopes to begin floor debate on the measure early next week.

Environmentalists have strongly opposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska, while the Bush administration and the auto industry have vigorously fought an increase in required automobile fuel efficiency.

The revised bill still would ease the licensing of nuclear power plants, remove some regulatory barriers to natural gas pipeline construction, overhaul the regulation of electric utilities and promote additional use of alternative-fuel cars and trucks.

Mitchell, D-Maine, while outlining his planned priorities for floor action in the coming week, told reporters he was "looking forward to getting into the debate" on the revised energy legislation. …