March 31, 2011 / 4:47 PM / 9 years ago

US Republicans in new push to drill in Alaska reserve

* Republican bill would open arctic refuge to drilling

* Bill would block EPA from regulating carbon

* Obama unveiled plan Wednesday to cut US oil imports

By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON, March 31 (Reuters) - Not yet a year after the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, Republicans are renewing efforts to drill for oil and gas in a fiercely contested Alaskan wildlife refuge.

Moving one day after President Barack Obama’s unveiled a plan to cut U.S. oil imports by a third over 10 years, Republicans will unveil a bill to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The bill would also force the Interior Department to hold lease sales for offshore areas, a Republican aide said.

The Republican bill faces an uphill battle for passage with Democrats in control of the Senate and White House, but could open a bargaining process in the first attempt at a broad energy bill since the failure of climate change legislation effort last year.

Issues such as opening the arctic refuge and restricting EPA regulation of carbon dioxide provoke intense opposition from many Democrats.

Sponsored by around 30 lawmakers, including Senators David Vitter and Jim DeMint, the legislation would also amend the Clean Air Act so that carbon dioxide could not be regulated as a pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Republicans have chided the administration, however, for not doing enough to promote traditional fossil fuels and for moving to curtail some drilling on federal lands, especially in the aftermath of the massive BP oil spill last year.

The bill would also force the State Department to issue all permits necessary for approval of TransCanada Corp’s (TRP.TO) delayed Keystone XL pipeline project.

The Keystone project would transport crude from Canadian oil sands to Gulf coast refineries, but it has run into opposition from environmentalists concerned about the carbon emissions from oil sands development and landowners concerned about pipeline safety. (Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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