Judge blocks Trump effort to reopen Arctic, Atlantic for offshore drilling

President Trump exceeded his constitutional powers in reversing Obama-era prohibitions on offshore drilling in Arctic and Atlantic waters, a federal judge ruled in Alaska.

In a March 29 ruling issued in Anchorage, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that while presidents have the power to withdraw offshore areas from leasing for energy development, only Congress has the power to reopen them.

“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,” Gleason wrote.

His administration approved Royal Dutch Shell’s last 2015 attempt to explore the Chukchi Sea, but weeks before leaving office Obama used his authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to ban oil drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska’s north coast, declaring a need to protect wildlife and Native Alaskan communities that depend on those natural resources.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called for Gleason’s decision to be appealed.

“I strongly disagree with this ruling, which asserts that past presidents can bind their successors and only Congress can overturn those decisions,” said Murkowski.

“That is not the correct interpretation of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and could have catastrophic impacts for offshore development, which creates jobs, generates revenues, and strengthens our national security. I expect this decision to be appealed and ultimately overturned—if not by the Ninth Circuit, then by the Supreme Court.”

About the author

Kirk Moore

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.


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    Pretty hollow assertion from the Senator when you have the adminastration asking OPEC to increase output. How does that strengthen our national security, how does that creat jobs? It just allows for a weak to flat recovery in the GOM. And to drill in those areas you need oil at higher level than 60$ a bbl. that makes for a slim to none profit margins due to the increased expenses.
    So if OPEC increases production why go to the trouble and expense of drilling in Alaska.? Look at the finds in Guyana it makes going to Alaska not financially viable.
    No matter what the judge says. The majors will not spend the time, money nor effort.

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    Simple justice should indicate that any executive action, absent a vote in congress, is a merely a temporary policy that expires with a change of presidents.

    Regardless of the intent of the Obama administration, only congress can extend executive actions beyond the term of a president and then it is no longer an executive action, but rather an act of congress.

    One would think that a sitting federal district judge could figure that out. This appears to be yet another case of political preference taking priority over the sworn duty to uphold the law of the land.

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