President Trump got shut down by another U.S. District Court judge this week. According Judge Sharon Gleason’s Friday decision, the president exceeded his authority when he reversed bans on offshore drilling in vast parts of the Arctic Ocean and dozens of canyons in the Atlantic Ocean. The judge restored the Obama-era restrictions and threw out Trump’s executive order that overturned the bans that comprised a key part of Obama’s environmental legacy.
Gleason said that presidents have the power under a federal law to remove certain lands from development 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 to the bench by Obama.
The American Petroleum Institute, a defendant in the case, disagreed 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.
But Erik Grafe, an attorney with Earthjustice, approved 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 andclimate.”
Earthjustice represented numerous environmental groups that sued the Trump administration over the April 2017 executive order reversing the drilling bans.
Jeffrey Wood , the acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General, said during a hearing before Gleason in November that environmental groups were misinterpreting the intent of the law written in 1953. Wood said it is meant to be flexible and sensible and not intended to bind one president with decisions made by another when determining offshore stewardship as needs and realities change over time.
Obama stopped exploration in coastal areas of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and the Hanna Shoal in 2015. This an important area for walrus. In late 2016, he withdrew most other potential Arctic Ocean lease areas – about 98 percent of the Arctic outer continental shelf.
The bans were intended to protect polar bears, walruses, ice seals and Alaska Native villages that depend on the animals.
In the Atlantic, Obama banned exploration in 5,937 square miles (15,377 square kilometers) of underwater canyon complexes, citing their importance for marine mammals, deep-water corals, valuable fish populations and migratory whales.