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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The powerful American Petroleum Institute and GOP senators are attacking big banks’ financial restrictions on Arctic oil drilling — and mulling ways to go beyond just verbal pushback.

What they’re saying: “We don’t think it’s appropriate for banks to discriminate against fossil-fuel communities,” API president Mike Sommers tells Axios.

  • “We’re working with the administration and others to ensure that does not occur," he said.

Why it matters: The growing number of banks vowing not to stake Arctic projects is another hurdle in front of White House plans to enable drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

  • More broadly, Arctic development is already facing strong headwinds due to low prices, low demand, and industry opportunities in less controversial regions.

Where it stands: The administration may try to use coronavirus relief policies as leverage to compel major U.S. banks to drop recent restrictions they’ve placed on Arctic oil and gas financing, per Sommers and President Trump himself.

  • “A number of these banks are seeking to participate in the programs that are part of the COVID response,” Sommers said. “And you’d think the administration would have significant leverage over these banks during this crisis.”

Meanwhile, Politico reports that GOP lawmakers plan to launch a "pressure campaign" against the banks.

  • It's not clear what realistic options they have in a divided Congress, but Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan offers this threat via Politico: "You think this is a cost-free action? Let's see about that."

Catch up quick: In just the last few months, five out of six of America’s biggest banks have announced new restrictions, Bloomberg reports.

  • The moves — the latest coming from Morgan Stanley in late April — are part of the banks’ broader pledges to support action on climate change and clean energy. 

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jul 29, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Trump heads to Texas oil patch as “dominance” agenda teeters

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

President Trump will tout his policy of "restoring energy dominance" in Texas oil country Wednesday, but market forces, OPEC and a raging pandemic are complicating his plans.

Driving the news: Trump's swing through the state today includes a visit in Midland to a Double Eagle Energy oil rig and speech on energy, and a fundraiser in Odessa.

6 mins ago - Politics & Policy

First kook: Harris wants more union membership in fed workforce

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a virtual town hall with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) on Oct. 14. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will today announce new guidelines to encourage federal workers to join unions, according to a White House official.

Why it matters: The Biden administration wants to bolster the collective bargaining power of workers across the country – and they are starting at home, with changes in the federal workforce.

7 mins ago - Health

The global coronavirus vaccine gap

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, particularly low-income countries. Pressure is increasing on the Biden administration to close the gap — and the Biden administration, in turn, is pushing Moderna to fill it.

Why it matters: Getting global vaccination rates as high as possible isn't just a humanitarian effort; it also reduces the risk of vaccine-resistant variants emerging.

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