Congress

Trump admin. pans Democrats’ plan to protect areas in Alaska and offshore

An Office of Management and Budget letter, dated last week, called it an attempt to ‘block’ activities promoting ‘America’s energy security’

This undated photo shows the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The Trump Administration panned a move by House Democrats to try and block new lease sales in ANWR and in offshore waters. (Photo by Steven Chase/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Getty Images)

The White House budget office criticized House Democrats over provisions in their spending bills that would block the Interior Department from pursuing lease sales in offshore waters and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an ecologically sensitive region in Alaska.

The House Appropriations Committee last week approved the $46.4 billion Energy-Water and $39.5 billion Interior-Environment fiscal 2020 spending bills.

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In a letter to Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., and Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, the panel’s top Republican, the White House budget director made clear that the Trump administration opposes language the committee added.

Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, criticized House appropriators for including provisions in the Interior-Environment bill text that would block Interior from engaging in “pre-leasing and other activities” in the Outer Continental Shelf and conducting “a lease sale” in ANWR.

“The Administration strongly opposes this attempt to block authorized activities that promote America’s energy security,” Vought wrote of the ANWR measure.

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Dated last week, the letters were quietly posted on the White House website.

The administration has sought to expand oil and gas drilling nationwide, including in the Arctic Ocean and ANWR, as well as off the shores of nearly every coastal state, despite bipartisan opposition to ocean drilling.

During the full committee markup, Democrats defeated a Republican amendment that would have stripped the ANWR language from the bill.

“In addition to creating jobs, the area will help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., who introduced the amendment, said at the time.

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Separately, Vought wrote that the administration is “disappointed” the Energy-Water bill didn’t zero out funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a technology incubator at the Energy Department.

The administration has sought to eliminate all funding for ARPA-E since fiscal 2018, but Congress has repeatedly increased the agency’s budget.

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