Judge Restores Obama-Era Drilling Ban In Arctic, Claims Donald Trump Exceeded His Authority In Overturning It

An aerial shot of the Arctic Ocean.
Mario Tama / Getty Images

A federal judge has restored drilling restrictions in the Arctic Ocean that were put in place under Barack Obama and taken away under Donald Trump.

The U.S. judge said in a ruling on Friday that Trump’s executive order overturning drilling bans was an overreach of his power, Fox News reported. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason said that presidents are granted the power to remove certain land from oil and gas drilling development, but they are not able to revoke those removals.

“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,” said Gleason in her decision.

The ruling was met with opposition from the American Petroleum Institute, a defendant in the case. As Fox News reported, the institute issued a statement saying that the development of offshore resources would have provided the federal government with billions of dollars in revenue and created thousands of jobs, while also strengthening national security.

But the ruling was also met with celebration from environmental groups that were waiting for a ruling that could have wider implications for other federally protected lands.

The Arctic Ocean drilling ban was a signature achievement of Obama, who promised to safeguard federal land from drilling. The measures were put in place after Trump’s election victory in November 2016, in what the Guardian called “a last-ditch effort to lock in environmental protections before he hands over to Donald Trump.”

Obama utilized a 1953 law giving presidents the power to block sale of offshore drilling and mining rights, the Guardian report noted.

At the time, the drilling ban was seen as unprecedented and legal experts said was likely to be challenged in court by the incoming Trump administration. Trump promised during his campaign that he would tap into the nation’s energy reserves and fossil fuels, which also came with a promise to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

As the report noted, Trump’s promises were alarming to environmentalists and led Obama to put in place a series of regulations and executive orders meant to protect the environment and his own legacy on addressing climate change.

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The latest decision is not expected to make any significant changes. As the Guardian noted, just 0.1 percent of U.S. federal offshore crude production came from the Arctic Ocean in 2015, and the U.S. Interior Department predicted that there would not be any significant jumps.