Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Trump: 'I Never Appreciated ANWR' Until Oil Industry Friend Called

Popular
Trump: 'I Never Appreciated ANWR' Until Oil Industry Friend Called
Caribou graze on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with the Brooks Range as a backdrop. USFWS / Flickr

The political battle over whether to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ( ANWR) for oil and gas exploration has raged for decades. Despite the majority of Americans opposing drilling in ANWR, pro-drilling Republicans have tried more than 50 times open up the pristine wilderness to energy development.

But President Trump was apparently indifferent to the matter until an oil industry friend told him that past presidents, including conservative icon Ronald Reagan, couldn't get drilling done.


"I never appreciated ANWR so much," Trump said Thursday during a speech at a Republican retreat in West Virginia. "A friend of mine called up who is in that world and in that business. He said, 'Is it true that you're thinking about ANWR?' I said 'Yeah, I think we're going to get it but you know …' He said, 'Are you kidding? That's the biggest thing by itself. Ronald Reagan and every president has wanted to get ANWR approved.' And after that I said 'Oh, make sure that is in the bill. It was amazing how that had an impact."

Congress lifted a 40-year drilling ban on the refuge after the Republican tax reform bill was approved in December. This " backdoor drilling provision," as environmentalists have dubbed it, was added to the tax reform package to secure the key vote of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who introduced the measure and has long championed the cause.

Trump's remarks, however, implied that he was the driving force behind the provision's inclusion.

"I really didn't care about it," he said. "Then when I heard that everybody wanted it, for 40 years, everybody tried to get it approved, 'Make sure you don't lose ANWR.'"

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the largest protected wilderness in the U.S., consists of more than 19 million acres of pristine landscapes and is home to 37 species of land mammals, eight marine mammals, 42 fish species and more than 200 migratory bird species.

Republicans have targeted the so-called 1002 area on the Prudhoe Bay in Northern Alaska, which has an estimated 12 billion barrels of recoverable crude.

Adam Kolton, the executive director of Alaska Wilderness League, was critical of Trump's remarks.

"It's clear from President Trump's remarks that jamming Arctic Refuge drilling in the tax bill was always about politics and not a thoughtful energy policy," Kolton said. "President Trump should care that he signed a bill reversing not a Democratic policy, but protections that date back to Republican presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Teddy Roosevelt. This is a retreat from the GOP great conservation legacy."

"Donald Trump might not care but millions of Americans do, and always have," he continued. "They care about protecting our last great wilderness. They care about the subsistence culture of the Gwich'in people whose way of life is now threatened. And they care about the polar bears, caribou and millions of migratory birds in this cherished landscape. They also care about the future of our climate, and do not want to see us squeeze every drop of oil out of our national parks and refuges just to increase our exports to places like China."

But Trump might care about ANWR more than he let on. After the speech, Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) told Alaska Public Media that the president has cared about ANWR since at least last March. He and Sen. Murkowski even briefed Trump for nearly an hour on state issues and their request to open the refuge to drilling.

"After that meeting," Sullivan said, "Seeing him in different settings and stuff, a number of times, a number times, he would ask, 'Hey Dan, how are we doing on ANWR? We going to get that done?'"

Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington comforts Marsha Maus, 75, whose home was destroyed during California's deadly 2018 wildfires, on March 11, 2019 in Agoura Hills, California. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

By Governor Jay Inslee

Climate Week this year coincides with clear skies in Washington state for the first time in almost two weeks.

In just a few days in early September, Washington state saw enough acres burned – more than 600,000 – to reach our second-worst fire season on record. Our worst fire season came only five years ago. Wildfires aren't new to the west, but their scope and danger today is unlike anything firefighters have seen. People up and down the West Coast – young and old, in rural areas and in cities – were choking on smoke for days on end, trapped in their homes.

Fires like these are becoming the norm, not the exception.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Four more years will be enough to cement in place Trump's anti-environmental policies and to make sure it's too late to really change course. Enrique Meseguer / Pixabay

By Bill McKibben

To understand the planetary importance of this autumn's presidential election, check the calendar. Voting ends on November 3—and by a fluke of timing, on the morning of November 4 the United States is scheduled to pull out of the Paris Agreement.

President Trump announced that we would abrogate our Paris commitments during a Rose Garden speech in 2017. But under the terms of the accords, it takes three years to formalize the withdrawal. So on Election Day it won't be just Americans watching: The people of the world will see whether the country that has poured more carbon into the atmosphere than any other over the course of history will become the only country that refuses to cooperate in the one international effort to do something about the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A woman marks down her vote on a ballot for the Democratic presidential primary election at a polling place on Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in Herndon, Virginia. Samuel Corum / Getty Images

By Oliver Milman

The climate crisis is set to be a significant factor in a U.S. presidential election for the first time, with new polling showing a clear majority of American voters want decisive action to deal with the threats posed by global heating.

Read More Show Less
A black bear cub climbs a tree at Tongass National Forest in Alaska. sarkophoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

America's largest national forest, Tongass National Forest in Alaska, will be opened up to logging and road construction after the Trump administration finalizes its plans to open up the forest on Friday, according to The New York Times.

Read More Show Less
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg protests in front of the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm on September 25, 2020. Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP / Getty Images

By Ruby Russell and Ajit Niranjan

Hamstrung by coronavirus lockdowns, frustrated school strikers have spent months staging digital protests against world leaders failing to act urgently on climate change.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch