United States president Donald Trump’s decision to reverse the ban on offshore drilling in large parts of the Arctic Ocean and dozens of canyons in the Atlantic was not within his authority, ruled a judge whyi9le restoring the restriction imposed during the Obama presidency.
Trump’s executive order, which reversed the bans which were put against such drilling and was crucial component of Obama’s environmental legacy, was cancelled by the US district court judge Sharon Gleason in a decision late on Friday.
Gleason said that while US presidents have the power to remove certain lands from development under a federal law, they do not have the power to 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.
No comments were made on the ruling by a Department of Justice spokesman, Jeremy Edwards.
The ruling was not agreed to by the American Petroleum Institute, a defendant in the case.
“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.
The ruling was welcomed by Erik Grafe, an attorney with Earthjustice, who said that the ruling “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”.
There were many environmental groups which filed cases against the Trump administration over the April 2017 executive order reversing the drilling bans and Earthjustice represented those complainants. At issue in the case was the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
The intent of the law written in 1953 was being misinterpreted by environmental groups, said acting assistant US attorney general Jeffrey Wood in November at a hearing before Gleason. The law is meant to be flexible and sensible and not done with the intent of attaching one president with the decisions that were taken by an earlier one while deciding on offshore stewardship with the change of need and realities, he said.
Explorations for oil in coastal areas of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and the Hanna Shoal which is an important region for walrus, was stopped by Barrack Obama in 2015. Later in 2016, exploration rights in most other potential Arctic Ocean lease areas were withdrawn by Obama. Those areas were accounted for about 98 per cent of the outer continental shelf of the Arctic.
The aim of the ban was provide enough protection for polar bears, walruses, ice seals and Alaska Native villages that depend on the animals.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)