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Development of the millions of barrels of oil beneath the 100-mile coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska has been a key part of President Bush's energy plan. Environmentalists contended drilling there would jeopardize a pristine area valued for its wildlife.

All but five Democrats voted against refuge drilling. There were eight Republicans who joined the Democrats in favor of barring oil companies from the refuge.

With one or two senators holding the balance, both sides stepped up their lobbying to try to sway anyone thinking of shifting. Freshman Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minnesota, under intense pressure, signaled he might vote in favor of drilling. But in the end, Coleman, who succeed the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, an ardent opponent of drilling, sided with the Democrats.

Drilling supporters failed last year to open the refuge to the oil industry because they couldn't get 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, although the House approved oil development. FROM CNN.
 
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