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article imageDrilling in Arctic and Atlantic Ocean blocked by federal judge

By Karen Graham     Mar 30, 2019 in Environment
A federal judge in Alaska declared late Friday that President Trump’s order revoking a sweeping ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans is illegal, putting 128 million acres of federal waters off limits to energy exploration.
U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason's decision leaves intact the Obama administrations policies that put the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea, part of the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea and a large swath of Atlantic Ocean off the U.S. East Coast off-limits to oil leasing, reports the Washington Post.
The Obama-imposed leasing prohibitions “will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress,” Gleason said in her ruling. Trump made the move to put offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic back into play for oil development in a 2017 executive order - as part of his “energy dominance” agenda.
Map of Alaska showing Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea.
Map of Alaska showing Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea.
Third setback in two weeks
Yesterday's ruling is the third setback to the Trump administration's energy and environmental policies in the last two weeks. On Friday, Gleason also shot down a land-swap deal arranged by the Interior Department that would have cleared the way for a road to be built through sensitive wetlands in Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.
Gleason ruled that Trump’s then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had broken the law when he reversed Obama's policy without addressing the facts found in a study of the issue done under the previous administration.
In another blow to the current administration, a federal judge ruled earlier this week that the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service illegally approved two gas drilling plans in western Colorado, on the grounds that officials did not adequately analyze their wildlife and climate impacts.
And on March 20, a federal judge ruled that the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management did an inadequate job of considering climate change impacts when deciding to pursue oil and gas drilling across almost 500 square miles in Wyoming.
A Wyoming coal mine.
A Wyoming coal mine.
Bureau of Land Management
Traqmpling the Constitution
If nothing else, these recent rulings, along with about two dozen others that have blocked the administration's attempts to use public lands to bring more fossil fuel from the ground are at least slowing Trump's drive to turn the country into a massive oil depot.
“President Trump’s lawlessness is catching up with him,” Erik Grafe, the lead attorney from the environmental law organization Earthjustice who argued to reinstate Obama’s leasing withdrawals in the Arctic and Atlantic, said in a statement Friday.
“The judge’s ruling today shows that the president can not just trample on the constitution to do the bidding of his cronies in the fossil fuel industry at the expense of our oceans, wildlife, and climate.”
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