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ConocoPhillips Drops Out of ANWR Lobbying Group

ConocoPhillips Drops Out of ANWR Lobbying Group

ConocoPhillips, the largest oil and natural gas producer on Alaska's North Slope, has dropped out of the chief lobbying group that has been pressing Congress to open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling.

The decision by the Houston-based producer comes two years after BP plc -- the second largest operator in Alaska -- exited the lobbying group, Arctic Power, and stirs up doubts about just how committed producers are to drilling in ANWR. The remaining producers in Arctic Power are ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil.

The exit by ConocoPhillips from the lobbying group comes at the start of the 109th Congress, with Republican lawmakers predicting that 2005 may be the year that both houses vote to open ANWR to oil and gas producers. Congress has debated the issue off and on since the early 1990s.

"While ConocoPhillips' withdrawal isn't likely to itself stop efforts to open the refuge, it gives fresh ammunition to critics of the proposal," The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported last Wednesday.

"We hope that ConocoPhillips' decision to drop out of Arctic Power will demonstrate to members of Congress that even the oil companies aren't interested in drilling in the Arctic refuge," said Athan Manuel, director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group's (PIRG) Arctic Wilderness Campaign.

"It appears that ConocoPhillips and BP are more enlightened than the Bush administration when it comes to drilling in the Arctic refuge. Hopefully, Congress will get the message and defeat attempts to allow drilling in the Arctic refuge this year."

ConocoPhillips said its "withdrawal was motivated, in part, by its primary focus on developing fields near established drilling areas on Alaska's North Slope and in supporting...a natural gas pipeline project from Alaska to the Lower 48 states in the U.S.," the WSJ reported.

In response to the exodus of ConocoPhillips, Green Century Capital Management of Boston, MA, which administers Green Century Funds and is wholly owned by nonprofit environmental organizations, has said it will withdraw a shareholder resolution that sought to block participation by ConocoPhillips in efforts to open ANWR to drilling.

BP dropped out of Arctic Power in November 2002 after a similar campaign by PIRG's Arctic Wilderness Campaign, the World Wildlife Fund and Green Century, according to the watchdog group PIRG. Resolutions also have been filed this year at ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil that call on each company to report on the risks of operating in the Arctic refuge. The resolutions are scheduled to be voted on at each company's 2005 annual meeting, PIRG said.

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