Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) emerged from a 45-minute meetingwith Vice President Richard Cheney yesterday to announce that theRepublican leaders in the Senate will introduce their wide-rangingenergy bill “early next week.”

Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural ResourcesCommittee, was one of several lawmakers in the Senate and Housethat Cheney met with on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Cheney is chairman ofa White House task force whose task is to develop a national energypolicy.

The centerpiece and most controversial element of the SenateRepublicans’ legislation is expected to be a provision calling foropening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gasdrilling. Asked if ANWR still was in the energy measure, acommittee spokeswoman quipped, “That goes without even asking.”

Senate democrats, led by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), are likelyto mount a vociferous attack of any legislation that includes ANWR.

Cheney conferred with a number of other lawmakers, includingSenate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), HouseMajority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX). Bartonis chairman of the energy and power subcommittee, which would haveoversight over any energy bill in the House.

Capitol Hill aides and energy industry representatives saw themeetings as an encouraging sign. They said they indicated that theWhite House is serious about energy. In fact, the Bushadministration plans to send its own energy legislation toCongress.

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