US District Judge Blocks Trump Administration On Environmentally Threatening Arctic And Atlantic Drilling Projects
Alaska judge blocks Donald Trump on Arctic and Atlantic drilling for oil production. The President crossed his authority reversing bans on offshore drilling in vast parts of the Arctic ocean along with dozens of Atlantic canyons, the judge said in a ruling restoring the restrictions of the Obama-era.
Barack Obama banned oil and gas exploration in 2016 in most parts of the Arctic Ocean. Donald Trump in April 2017 ordered Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, to review the ban to open offshore areas for exploration. Environmental and Alaska Native groups took it to court to maintain the ban.
Sharon Gleason, the US district court judge in a decision on Friday late, threw out executive order of the Trump that overturned the bans comprising a vital part of environmental legacy Barrack Obama.
As per Gleason, the Presidents have the authority to remove certain lands from development under federal law but cannot revoke those removals.
“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,” said Gleason, who was nominated by Obama.
Jeremy Edwards, a spokesman in Department of Justice, declined comment on Saturday.
However, The American Petroleum Institute, a defendant in the case, does not agree with the ruling.
“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,” it said in a statement.
An attorney with Earthjustice, Erik Grafe, welcomed the ruling, saying 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.”
Earthjustice that sued Trump’s administration over the executive order of April 2017 reversing the drilling bans represented numerous environmental groups. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act was at issue in the said case.
In a statement in a hearing before Gleason in November, acting assistant US attorney general Jeffrey Wood said that the intent of the law written in 1953 was misinterpreted by environmental groups.
The law is meant to be flexible and sensible, and it was not intended to bind a president with decisions taken by another in determining offshore stewardship as change occurs in requirements and realities over time, Jeffrey explained.
Obama halted the exploration in coastal areas of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and the Hanna Shoal, significant area for walrus in 2015. In late 2016, he withdrew around 98% of the Arctic outer continental shelf including most potential Arctic ocean lease areas.
The intention behind the ban was to protect polar bears, ice seals, walruses, and Alaska Native villages with indigenous populations, many of which rely on the animals for subsistence hunting and fishing as per the government assessment.
Obama administration banned exploration in 5,937sq miles of underwater canyon complexes in the Atlantic, referring to their significance for marine mammals, migratory whales, valuable fish populations, and deep-water corals as well as a loss of vegetation, wetlands, and permafrost.
In 2017 the Trump administration provided only 21 days to the public to review and comment on the exploration plan and only 10 days to comment on scoping for an environmental assessment, Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity said.
“Approving this Arctic drilling plan at the 11th hour makes a dangerous project even riskier,” Monsell said. “An oil spill here would do incredible damage, and it’d be impossible to clean up.”
The executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, Adam Kolton, called the review “rushed” and “inadequate.”
“This is a land grab, pure and simple,” he said. “The individual’s responsible care little about impacts to wildlife or the damage they would be inflicting on Alaska native people whose subsistence depends on the Arctic refuge.”
Trump’s move would also increase pollution of greenhouse gas. The high oil production would increase 5m metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year equal to emissions from around a million more cars put on the road causing global greenhouse gas emissions up to .01%.