WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said his administration was considering whether to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a 19 million acre (7.7 million hectares) refuge that has been off-limits to drilling for decades.
“We will take a look at that,” Trump told Fox News in a telephone interview when asked about a Wall Street Journal report that his administration plans to approve an oil leasing program for ANWR on Monday.
The Journal said the Interior Department’s approval of the drilling program would pave the way for oil and gas leases to be auctioned by the end of 2020 – a decision that would be difficult to reverse even if the Republican President were to lose to Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
The Washington Post also reported that the administration was finalizing plans on Monday to open up ANWR to drilling.
Environmentalists and Native American groups have fought the development of the refuge after legislation passed in 2017 allowed it to be opened up to oil and gas exploration.
Reporting by Steve Holland and Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Will Dunham.