This is devastating – but not entirely unexpected – news:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted to keep, in a broad federal budget legislation, the language that would open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling.

The Bush administration wants to give energy companies access to the refuge’s billions of barrels of oil to boost domestic supplies and help reduce U.S. dependence on crude imports.

Although the Senate vote on Wednesday was a major step forward for supporters of drilling in ANWR, it remains unclear if the measure will win the full support of Congress.

The Senate is expected to vote on its budget bill later this week. The House of Representatives, which has approved drilling in the refuge in the past, would still have to adopt the Senate’s drilling language when lawmakers from both chambers negotiate a final budget bill. However, House Republicans have cautioned that it will be difficult for both chambers to negotiate an overall budget deal this year.

There is still some hope that Congress will not approve this, because it remains an unpopular position among their constituents.

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