Donnelly (again) plays to the Right on ANWR

(The article was originally published in the South Bend Tribune)

Article published Jun 13, 2008
Candidate Puckett to visit ANWR
Republican wants U.S. to drill for oil in Alaskan refuge.

ED RONCO
Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND — Republican congressional candidate Luke Puckett will travel to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska next month to advocate for oil exploration there.

Puckett, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, will travel with four other congressional candidates, including former U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel, R-Ind., who is running for the 9th District seat in southern Indiana.

He also will be joined by candidates from Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The trip is scheduled for July 14-17.

Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, has been the subject of debate for years, renewed recently by soaring gasoline prices that recently topped $4 per gallon.

Puckett and other proponents of drilling in the reserve, which is located in the northeastern-most corner of Alaska, say it would add more oil to the market and lower prices.Critics of drilling in ANWR, such as the Sierra Club and environmental groups, say it will disrupt the sensitive environment there, and that any benefits would take decades to realize.

The Republican candidates will visit Prudhoe Bay, where British Petroleum and other oil companies partner to operate the largest oil field in North America.

Then the delegation will travel, likely by helicopter, into ANWR for a look around, Puckett said.

“The whole goal of the trip is to simply go and fact-find,” he said. “Just how much is there? We’ve heard people say 16 billion barrels of oil are waiting for us there.”

Puckett has criticized Donnelly for votes he says have prevented exploration for oil in ANWR, including a vote in June 2007 to prohibit domestic oil and gas exploration.“Last year, Joe voted with a bipartisan majority to maintain the moratorium on drilling on the outer continental shelf, but with $4 a gallon gas, the situation is different,” said Andrew Lattanner, Donnelly’s campaign manager, in an interview June 5. “And the congressman recognizes that we need to look at all our options, and one of those options is looking at the outer continental shelf.”

Donnelly has said he would favor exploring ANWR if the drilling was done responsibly and in conjunction with other measures to help lower the price of fuel and increase energy efficiency, such as exploring biofuels or wind and solar power.

Puckett, meanwhile, said Donnelly’s change of mind on the vote was “political expediency.” He also reiterated an offer to take Donnelly on the trip to ANWR.

It’s an offer Donnelly’s not interested in, his campaign manager said.

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