Trump Plans to Restart Oil Drilling in Alaska Arctic Refuge

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump told Senate Republicans Thursday he would restart oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reversing a move by the Biden administration to cancel leases in the frozen wilderness.

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“He said ‘We’ll get back to that,’” Senator Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican, told reporters after emerging from a closed-door meeting with Trump and other Republican senators. “He opened it up, and Biden closed it down, and he said when we get back we’ll get it back open.”

Congress under Trump lifted a 40-year-old ban on energy development in the refuge in 2017, mandating lease sales in an area long prized for its oil and gas potential but also for its rich habitat, home to waterfowl, caribou, polar bears and other wildlife.

President Joe Biden suspended those sales, and his administration last year began taking steps to thwart oil development the region, canceling drilling leases sold in 2021 and placing more than half of the nearby National Petroleum Reserve off-limits to exploration.

Environmentalists who bitterly opposed lifting the drilling ban seven years ago said they would fight any similar move.

“It’s appalling but not surprising that Trump is repeating his promise to Big Oil to drill, drill, drill in one of the most iconic national treasures on the planet,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, a senior vice president with the League of Conservation Voters. “This is one more example of him being the most anti-environmental president ever.”

Trump’s remarks, which came during his first Washington visit since his criminal conviction in New York last month, followed a day of meetings around the Hill as election season kicks into high gear. The former president earlier told House Republicans he planned to do away with Biden’s policies promoting electric vehicles.

Trump, during his meeting at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, spoke about the role of energy in inflation, saying “energy prices remain high because we keep supply in the ground,” Cramer said.

“He talked a lot about us having more oil than Saudi Arabia and that we should get back to open production,” Cramer said.

(Updates with comment from environmental group in paragraphs five and six.)

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