|NEW YORK - ConocoPhillips has dropped out of a high-profile group that lobbies for opening up an Alaskan wildlife refuge to oil and gas drilling, the No. 3 US oil company said Wednesday.|
ConocoPhillips' departure from Arctic Power follows oil major BP Plc's withdrawal from the group in November 2002. It comes as Congress gears up to reopen the debate on drilling in the oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, currently closed to production.
President Bush supports opening the area to exploration and analysts have speculated that his victory in November's presidential election would give a boost to oil companies' efforts there. Moderate Republicans and Democrats in the US Senate oppose the drilling plan.
Environmentalists, who have buffeted oil companies with e-mail and shareholder resolutions over the issue, hailed ConocoPhillips' decision as a victory for the movement to keep the region closed to oil exploration.
The move prompted Green Century Capital Management, a mutual fund that emphasizes environmental responsibility, to withdraw a shareholder resolution filed with the company over the issue.
"We have not been involved in the ANWR debate in many years and have focused our investment attention in Alaska toward the (proposed) gas pipeline and development of other North Slope satellite fields," a ConocoPhillips representative said in an e-mail message. "Since ANWR is currently closed to development, we feel that any resolution or pledge on our part would be moot."
The US Geological Service estimates 10.3 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil lies below the ground in the refuge, although it is debatable because it has not been investigated.
Arctic Power did not immediately respond to a message left by Reuters.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE