Donald Trump has confirmed his White House administration was “looking at” opening up Alaska’s Arctic Refuge to oil drilling for the first time in history during a wide-ranging interview with Fox News on Monday morning.
The president spoke as a new report in the Wall Street Journal revealed how Mr Trump’s interior secretary, David Bernhardt, was planning to allow for the auctioning of oil leases “right around the end of the year” in the 19-million-acre region.
Asked about the report during a live interview with the network's morning show, Fox & Friends, Mr Trump responded: "We may or may not do it ... Well no, we are looking at it."
He added: "I've been very good to Alaska."
The president’s interior secretary signalled he was willing to open up the massive region for wildlife to drilling, a goal of the fossil fuel industry ever since Congress approved protections in 1980 for the refuge, which is nearly the size of South Carolina, as WSJ reported.
“Congress gave us a very clear directive here, and we have to carry out that directive consistent with the directive that they gave, and consistent with the procedural statutes,” Mr Bernhardt said. “I have a remarkable degree of confidence that this can be done in a way that is responsible, sustainable and environmentally benign.”
Mr Trump spoke about the reported plans to open up the refuge to drilling while slamming his presumptive Democratic opponent Joe Biden over the issue of fossil fuel, claiming the former vice president and Democratic leaders want to “totally ban” things like fracking. Mr Biden does not support a ban on fracking.
“They don’t like oil, guns or religion. Other than that, they’re wonderful,” Mr Trump said about the Democratic Party.
Approving auctions for oil drilling by the end of the year and paving the way for new oil operations in the arctic before January would make it increasingly difficult for Democrats to overturn the Trump administration’s plans in the event Mr Biden wins the 2020 elections.
Shortly after the news broke, it was reported that Mr Bernhardt signed a Record of Decision that would essentially determine where companies can begin drilling for oil within the refuge’s coastal plain.
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