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Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

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Posted on  

October 20, 2003

No deal on U.S. energy bill, today's vote canceled

By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON - Republican negotiators have canceled today's vote on a broad U.S. energy bill after failing over the weekend to finalize a $16 billion package of tax credits and incentives in the legislation, congressional sources said on Sunday.

Republican staff were in their Capitol Hill offices over the weekend trying to resolve the multibillion-dollar tax provisions in the energy bill, but could not reach a deal in time to have a final vote on the legislation today before a joint Senate-House conference committee.

"No conference (today)... We're on hold," said one congressional aide familiar with the talks.

Going into the weekend talks there was disagreement among negotiators, in particular, over the tax package's incentives to build an Alaskan natural gas pipeline and provide a fuel tax break for ethanol-blended gasoline, the congressional sources said.

The rest of the wide-ranging bill, which would modernize the U.S. electrical grid, promote oil and natural gas drilling and encourage the development of alternative energy sources, is ready to go.

That prompted Democrats, who have been kept out of the bill-writing process, to urge their Republican colleagues on Sunday to release those provisions of the bill already finalized so they can review them and propose changes if necessary before a vote in the conference committee.

A Democratic aide said his party's conferees take their responsibility "very carefully and want a process that will give them an authentic role in shaping America's future energy policy."

The aide said there are "hundreds and hundreds of pages" in the bill that Democrats have not seen yet.

Republican negotiators were planning to bring the final energy bill to the House floor on Tuesday, but that does not seem possible now. There is little time left this week for a House vote on any legislation, much less the energy bill.

Environmental groups already have something to cheer about, as negotiators were expected to drop from the bill controversial language to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and drop plans for a government inventory of oil and natural gas reserves in offshore U.S. waters where drilling is banned.

That would be a big defeat for the Bush administration, which wanted to tap ANWR's potential 16 billion barrels of oil to help reduce U.S. oil imports.

However, the plan had become a poison pill in the Senate, where Democrats threatened to filibuster to death any energy bill that gave oil companies access to the refuge.

Source: Reuters



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