A US federal court in Alaska has overturned an order issued by President Donald Trump to allow offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and Atlantic.
The ruling is a setback to Trump’s plans to open the Arctic and Atlantic for exploration leases to tap the resources to increase production and create jobs. Trump reversed bans put in place by the previous Obama-led administration to prevent threats caused by drilling to polar bears, walruses, ice seals and native communities.
These bans barred oil and gas leasing in about 98% of the US territory of the Arctic Ocean and 31 deepwater canyons in the Atlantic Ocean. However, in 2017 Trump issued an executive order to revoke the restrictions.
Numerous environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace USA and Sierra Club knocked on the doors of the court seeking a reversal of Trump’s executive order.
US District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that Trump has exceeded his authority in revoking the ban on drilling, calling the order “unlawful and invalid.”
In the ruling, Gleason 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.”
In January 2018, the US Department of the Interior unveiled a draft programme to consider opening the entire US Outer Continental Shelf for potential oil and gas lease sales early. The programme proposed 19 lease sales in the Alaska Region and nine in the Atlantic Region, as well as sales in other areas.
The American Petroleum Institute, one of the defendants in the case, was quoted by media sources as saying: “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.”