Trump Auctioning Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) For Oil

The Trump administration on Thursday said it would issue a sale notice for oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) next week, putting it on track to hold a drilling auction.

The move is the latest step toward pulling off the first ever sale of oil and gas leases in a pristine area of the Arctic before Biden, a Democrat who opposes energy development there, becomes president on Jan. 20.

The sale notice will be published on Monday, setting up a sale to be held on Jan. 6 via video livestream, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said in a statement.

Trump’s Republican administration issued a request to energy companies to identify what specific areas in the refuge should be offered for sale. The companies have 30 days to respond, and a sale notice was not expected to be issued until the end of that period.

“The Trump Administration is hell-bent on selling off the Arctic Refuge on its way out the door, rules be damned,” Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, said in an emailed statement.

Drilling had been banned in the refuge for decades before Republican-led tax legislation signed in 2017 removed that ban. Lawmakers in Alaska have long pushed to open up the area to oil and gas exploration.

The coastal plain covers about 1.6 million acres, an area roughly the size of Delaware, and makes up about 8% of the vast refuge. It’s home to polar bears, caribou and other wildlife. It’s also thought to hold billions of barrels of oil.

Trump Organization and PPP Cash

Businesses at properties belonging to the Trump Organization and Kushner Cos., owned by the family of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, benefited from the government’s pandemic relief funds, according to an analysis by NBC News.

The companies received over 25 Paycheck Protection Program loans worth more than $3.65 million, the report said.

The newly released data from the Small Business Administration comes after NBC News and 10 other news companies sued the agency for the release  of information on more than 5 million loans that were given out. Congress and the Trump administration earlier this year dedicated nearly $700 billion to PPP loans, which were intended to help small businesses stay afloat and retain workers during the economic disruption caused by COVID-19. 

But since the Treasury Department’s rollout in the spring, the program has drawn criticism over risks of fraud and abuse, and there were several instances of large companies applying for and benefiting from the emergency funds.

Washington Post analysis on Tuesday showed that more than half of the relief money went to just 5% of recipients. National food chains such as Uno Pizzeria & Grill, Boston Market, and Cava Mezze Grill, as well as law firms and churches, were among the hundreds of larger businesses that received the maximum amount of $10 million allowed under the program, The Post reported.

Fifteen of the Trump Organization- and Kushner Cos.-owned properties reported that they kept either one employee or no employees, or did not report at all how many workers were kept on their payrolls, according to NBC News.

Two tenants at Trump Tower in New York received a PPP loan of over $100,000, NBC News reported. Still, they kept only three jobs. Similarly, four tenants at 666 5th Avenue, which is helmed by Kushner Cos., got more than $204,000 but held on to only half a dozen jobs, NBC News said.

The Triomphe Restaurant at the Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City got a $2,164,543 loan, according to NBC News. The business didn’t retain any workers and subsequently shut down.

Meanwhile, LB City Inc., a company at the Kushner family’s New Jersey Bungalow Hotel, retained 155 jobs after acquiring a loan of over $505,500, NBC News reported.

“The notion that Kushner Companies somehow improperly benefited from CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans is completely untrue and amounts to nothing more than politically motivated nonsense,” Christopher Smith, the company’s general counsel, told Insider in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

He added: “Exactly two Kushner Companies’ hotel operations affiliates received PPP loans. Every provision of the PPP program has been comprehensively abided with respect to each of the two loans — and every penny of the funds received from the program was utilized to fund employee payroll and benefits costs to maintain jobs imperiled by the COVID pandemic and associated lockdown measures.”

The Trump Organization did not immediately respond for comment.

Original Story Here – Business Insider