House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) recommended Wednesday that revenues from leasing and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) could be used to fund the highway and transit improvements called for in the massive transportation package being debated on Capitol Hill now.

Pombo made the suggestion in a letter to House Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young (R-AK), who had issued a plea to various House committee chairmen for suggestions of possible ways to pay for needed improvements to the nation’s transportation system.

The House’s proposed $375 billion, six-year highway and transit bill (HR 3550) has come under attack from the Bush administration and Republicans in the House and Senate for its hefty price-tag. The Bush administration, which has proposed $256 billion in spending for transportation, has threatened to veto the bill. A companion measure now on the Senate floor is considerably less ($317 billion), but it still exceeds the administration’s threshold amount.

Citing Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates, Pombo said that energy exploration on the coastal plain region of ANWR “would provide $2.15 billion in new revenues to the federal treasury.” In addition, “if energy is discovered, the legacy for transportation that could be derived from any royalties would be substantial,” he told Young.

“At the mean estimate of ANWR’s resource potential, royalties at today’s price for [Alaska North Slope] oil delivered to the West Coast would yield in excess of $15 billion in royalties to the federal treasury over the life of production,” Pombo noted. Moreover, he estimated that ANWR drilling would result in more than $100 billion in new federal taxes at the corporate tax rate.

“While it would be difficult to capture the taxes generated in this new wealth for the future transportation needs of the nation, it is clear that such an enormous contribution to the overall revenues of the government would make investments in transportation infrastructure more easy into the future,” according to the California Republican.

Pombo’s proposal is likely to get a better reception in the House, which favors opening up the ANWR coastal plain region to oil and natural gas drilling, than in the Senate. There, it would run up against a wall of opposition.

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