Politics: ...And Drilling Rights for All

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, May 1995

Politics: ...And Drilling Rights for All

Can you blame Senator Ted Stevens for putting our land to good use?
By Ned Martel

Effigy manufacturers should expect brisk sales during this summer's bonanza of species-protection hearings on Capitol Hill. The fairy shrimp, a perennial bee in the bonnets of developers, will no doubt be a popular model. Odds are, likenesses of Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska will move swiftly, too.

As the new chairman of the Rules Committee, the 30-year Senate veteran suddenly has the clout to make use of his mastery of parliamentary procedure. The result so far has been first-rate, though some say cynical, legislative high jinks. Frequently when a 1,000-page bill crosses his desk, Stevens peppers it with hard-to-find amendments and deletions that would free up federal lands for all uses and users and that then have to be painstakingly untangled by Democrats on the Senate floor. Of course, Stevens's grasp of law-making as guerrilla warfare is offensive to some, but apparently the process eases the pain of past losses in the area of oil-drilling and logging restric-tions in Alaska. "Stevens is more adept at the rules of the game," says Karl Gawell, a lobbyist for the Wilderness Society. Another lobbyist put it this way: "You never know where to look for his stuff."

This summer, expect Stevens to plant language that would suspend the permit process for motorized vehicles on federal lands and to try to reduce the enviro-rigamarole involved with offshore oil prospecting. Oddly, prime surf spots may be spared. Stevens, who grew up in California, keeps a 90-pound, wooden, 1940s-vintage surfboard leaning against his office wall.

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