Judge Rules Trump Executive Order Allowing Offshore Drilling in Arctic Ocean Unlawful

A federal judge in Alaska has ruled an executive order by President Donald Trump allowing offshore oil drilling of tens of millions of acres in the Arctic Ocean is "unlawful and invalid."

The ruling on 29 March from US District Court Judge Sharon Gleason means a drilling ban for much of the Arctic Ocean off of Alaska will go back into effect.

On 28 April 2017, Trump issued an executive order reversing three memoranda and one executive order in 2015 and 2016 by then President Barack Obama withdrawing about 125 million acres of the Arctic Ocean from oil leasing. The Obama order also prevented drilling in certain parts of the Atlantic Ocean.

That action by the Obama Administration prompted strong criticism from some Alaska politicians and oil companies that wanted to drill there.

Ten environmental groups, including Greenpeace, the League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society, filed suit to block Trump's executive order. Defending the order were the Trump administration, the American Petroleum Institute, and the state of Alaska.

Gleason ruled that the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act only allows a president to withdraw lands from consideration by the Interior Department for leasing—not to revoke a prior withdrawal. She ruled Congress is the only institution that can reverse a president's decision with regard to this matter, saying Trump's executive order "is unlawful, as it exceeded the President's authority."

"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 said.

Gleason added the withdrawals in 2015 and 2016 "will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress."

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