Ruling By Federal Judge a Blow to Trump’s Offshore Oil Drilling Plans

Apr 03, 2019

A federal judge declared late last month that President Trump’s executive order removing a previous ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic Ocean was illegal. The ruling, by Judge Sharon L. Gleason of the U.S. District Court for Alaska, reinstates a ban on energy exploration for millions of acres of federal waters, dealing a blow to Trump’s intent to increase offshore oil and gas development.

The Trump administration had announced the largest planned expansion of offshore drilling in decades, in the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. On Nov. 30, 2018, five companies were authorized to bid for the right to conduct geological and geophysical seismic surveys, a precursor to oil and gas drilling.

Gleason, however, wrote that President Barack Obama’s drilling prohibition for approximately 120 million acres in the Arctic Ocean and about 3.8 million acres in the Atlantic “will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress,” and added that an April 2017 executive order by Trump rescinding the ban “is unlawful, as it exceeded the president’s authority.”

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said the ruling was a “win” for New Jersey as this decision “will be a huge setback for Trump’s offshore drilling plan.”

“When it comes to pipelines or other natural gas projects, the more we can delay, the better the chance it could be stopped. We need to keep on fighting and standing up to protect our coast.”

Tittel added, “Offshore drilling would be disastrous for our state’s environment and would jeopardize our $38 billion coastal economy and fishing industry. The possibility of an oil spill or leak would threaten New Jersey’s entire coastal economy. Drilling anywhere in the mid-Atlantic would directly put our coasts at risk.”

Many politicians up and down the East Coast and elsewhere have voiced strong opposition to seismic surveys and drilling offshore, as have environmental organizations focused on protecting the oceans, marine life and the residents, human and animal, in the states bordering the sea. Last month, Alliance for a Living Ocean and a number of partners gathered at Cape May Convention Hall for a Rally to Save Our Seas, imploring individuals to reach out to their representatives to urge them to help stop any attempts to drill offshore for fossil fuels.

Gleason’s decision is expected to be appealed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. —J.K.-H.

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