Judge restores Obama-era ban on offshore drilling in Arctic after Trump lifted the ban
According to Gleason, while presidents have the power under federal law to remove certain lands from development, they cannot revoke those removals
A US judge ruled that President Donald Trump had "exceeded his authority" when he reversed Obama-era bans on offshore drilling in massive sections of the Arctic Ocean and a series of canyons in the Atlantic Ocean, and thereby restored the previous restrictions in place.
The bans, that comprised a major part of Obama's environmental impact decisions, were reinstated by US District Court Judge Sharon Gleason after an executive order by Trump had overturned them, stated an Associated Press report.
According to Gleason, while presidents have the power under federal law to remove certain lands from development, they cannot revoke those removals. The judge, who was nominated to the bench by Obama himself, said, "The wording of President Obama's 2015 and 2016 withdrawals indicates that he intended them to extend indefinitely, and therefore be revocable only by an act of Congress."
The Department of Justice is yet to respond to requests for comment. However, a defendant in the case, the American Petroleum Institute, did not agree with the verdict.
"In addition to bringing supplies of affordable energy to consumers for decades to come, developing our abundant offshore resources can provide billions in government revenue, create thousands of jobs and will also strengthen our national security," they said in a statement.
On the other hand, Earthjustice attorney Eric Grafe was pleased with the ruling. According to him, it "shows that the president cannot just trample on the Constitution to do the bidding of his cronies in the fossil fuel industry at the expense of our oceans, wildlife, and climate."
The Trump administration released the executive order reversing the drilling bans in April 2017, prompting a lawsuit from numerous environmental activist groups including Earthjustice. In dispute was The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953.
During a hearing before Gleason in November, Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Wood said that environmental groups had misunderstood the intent of the said law. According to him, the legislation was not intended to bind one president with decisions made by another, but was meant to be flexible and sensible.
As needs and realities change over time, the commander-in-chief must be free to determine offshore stewardship as his administration deems fit, he said.
Obama stopped exploration in coastal areas of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and the Hanna Shoal, an ecologically imperative area for walrus, in 2015. The following year, he withdrew lease areas from 98% of the Arctic outer continental shelf. Furthermore, the bans were intended to protect ice seals, walruses, polar bears, and the native villages in Alaska that directly depend on the animals.