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Construction planned to prepare Alaska’s Arctic refuge for oil drilling

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The Trump administration said on Thursday it would spend $4 million on construction projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in preparation for oil drilling in the nation’s biggest wildlife park.

In an announcement that touted planned improvements to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visitor facilities, the Department of the Interior said it has approved spending on projects for “Oil Exploration Readiness” in the coastal plain of the Arctic refuge.

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The Trump administration is pushing for an oil lease sale in the refuge to be held as early as next year. The tax-overhaul bill passed by the U.S. Congress last December includes a provision mandating two oil lease sales, each offering at least 400,000 acres (161,874.26 hectares), within seven years.

The 19-million-acre (7.7 million-hectare) Arctic refuge, the largest in the U.S. national wildlife refuge system, contains some of the wildest territory in North America. There are no roads, established trails or buildings of any type within the refuge border, and no cell phone service, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“This is a true wilderness Refuge,” the Arctic refuge website advises.

Political and business leaders in oil-dependent Alaska have tried for decades to pry open the refuge’s coastal plain, which is believed to hold potential for billions of barrels of oil. But the plain, between the Brooks Range mountains and the Arctic Ocean, is prized for its importance to caribou, polar bears and other wildlife. Oil development there had been banned until Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski led a move to insert a pro-drilling provision into the 2017 tax bill signed by President Donald Trump.

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In Alaska, the development plan is largely embraced, but not universally so. Drilling opponents gathered outside of last week’s Anchorage and Fairbanks hearings about the proposed lease sales to protest the plan.

Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift, in an email, said the $4 million “will be used to support six projects designed to improve and construct existing outbuildings, facilities and research operations.”

That work will include improvements to facilities located outside the refuge, in the Inupiat village of Kaktovik and at Galbraith Lake along the Trans Alaska Pipeline corridor, she said in the email.

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The $4 million appropriation for Arctic refuge projects is one of the largest single items in a total of $50 million in planned DOI construction spending.

“The President is a builder, he loves to build and he loves our public lands, so it is a natural fit that the Trump Administration is dedicating so much attention to rebuilding our aging Fish and Wildlife Service infrastructure,” Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement on Thursday.

A partnership of three companies is seeking to do seismic surveys in the refuge starting this winter. That plan, from SAExploration and two Alaska Native corporations, was panned by the U.S., Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Post reported last month.

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There has been no decision on that application, Swift said on Thursday. “It was a draft application. The Department does not make decisions based upon early drafts,” she said by email.

Reporting by Yereth Rosen; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Diane Craft


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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‘Train-wreck of a witness’: Analysts nail ‘obstructive’ Corey Lewandowski for proving the Democrats’ case

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Political commentator Catherine Rampell disagreed with New York Times columnist Frank Bruni that the Democrats faltered during the hearing with Corey Lewandowski Tuesday. Former state and federal prosecutor Elie Honig called Lewandowski a "train-wreck of a witness."

She explained that Democrats had an extremely low bar: they had to prove Trump obstructed justice and that Corey Lewandowski gave one of the examples of such obstructions. In that sense, Rampell said they accomplished their goals.

"I don’t think this was a great day for Corey Lewandowski," she began. "This is a guy who went on TV and announced to the world -- apparently at the same time he is also trying to fundraise for Senate -- that he lies most of the time. Except when he's under oath."

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CNN

WATCH: Ana Navarro keeps shouting down Trump booster — even as CNN host cuts to commercial

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President Donald Trump cheered on his top Hispanic advisor Steve Cortes, who appeared before a New Mexico audience. Trump asked Cortes which he loved more, Hispanics or America, which prompted CNN's Ana Navarro to blast the president for racism. Meanwhile, Trump's latest CNN shill cried "political correctness."

"Look, I suspect he didn't want to offend Steve Cortes and I suspect Steve Cortes was not offended," Navarro said. "But really what a stupid thing to say. Right? To somehow ask the question about whether you love the country more than you love Hispanics -- they are one and the same."

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Pennsylvania Republican senator arrested and charged with possession of child pornography

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According to a release from Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Republican state Sen. Michael Folmer has been arrested and charged with possession of child pornography.

The release said that the investigation began as the result of a CyberTip about Tumblr discovering that a user had uploaded child pornography onto their site. It ultimately led to the home of Folmer in Lebanon, PA. A search warrant yielded images on Folmer's phone.

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