Trump: I didn’t care about allowing drilling at Arctic refuge until friend in drilling industry raised it

President Trump said Thursday that he initially did not care about opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas.

“I really didn’t care about it, and then when I heard that everybody wanted it, for 40 years they’ve been trying to get it approved, I said, ‘Make sure you don’t lose ANWR,’” Trump said in a speech to a congressional Republican retreat in West Virginia.

Trump repeated what he said at a White House event in December, that he is excited about ANWR drilling in part because numerous GOP presidents have failed at get it passed.

“A friend of mine called up who’s in that world and in that business and said, ‘Is it true that you think about ANWR?’ I said, ‘I think we’re going to get it, you know.’ He said, ‘Are you kidding? That’s the biggest thing, by itself.’ He said, ‘Ronald Reagan and every president has wanted to get ANWR approved.’”

The GOP tax overhaul law passed and signed in December included a provision requiring two drilling rights sales in the remote refuge over the next 10 years.

ANWR drilling has been an oil industry priority since the 1970s, and fighting it has been an environmental priority for about as long.

The refuge, managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, hosts significant populations of caribou, moose, lynxes and black bears, among other species.

Federal officials estimate that ANWR’s Coastal Plain, which would host the drilling, has as much as 16 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil.

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