President Trump reportedly encouraged Native American leaders to “just do it” and extract resources from their own land, despite federal regulations blocking them from doing so, Axios reported on Sunday.
After the leaders told Trump they couldn’t drill for the resources because of regulations, Trump reportedly said: ”But now it’s me. The government’s different now. Obama’s gone; and we’re doing things differently here.”
“Chief, chief, what are they going to do? Once you get it out of the ground are they going to make you put it back in there?” Trump said, according to Axios.
“I mean, once it’s out of the ground it can’t go back in there. You’ve just got to do it. I’m telling you, chief, you’ve just got to do it.”
Axios reported that when a Trump official in the room told the leaders that the administration was working on rolling back the regulations blocking them from extracting the resources, the president said: “Guys, I feel like you’re not hearing me right now. We’ve just got to do it.”
“I feel like we’ve got no choice; other countries are just doing it. China is not asking questions about all of this stuff. They’re just doing it. And guys, we’ve just got to do it.”
A person in the meeting disputed that Trump was telling the leaders to break federal law and start drilling on the land, telling Axios that the remarks were just “Trump speak.”
Trump has made rolling back regulations a key part of his administration, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
Energy resources have been a point of contention between the federal government and Native American tribes recently — tribes have pushed to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline because it passes through a lake they consider to be environmentally and culturally important.
Native American tribes have also long fought to drill on reservations, but federal regulations that apply only to tribal lands have slowed down the process and cost tribes millions of dollars, according to Reuters.
Some estimate that the reservations contain up to a fifth of the U.S.’s oil and gas reserves, Reuters reported. And tribal leaders are reportedly taking advantage of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks to push for easier access to the possible reserves.