- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A coalition of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday to stop President Trump’s plan to open up new areas of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans to offshore drilling.

Mr. Trump last week signed an executive order lifting former President Obama’s ban on new drilling leases, which was put in place during his administration’s final weeks. Mr. Trump’s order also directed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to conduct a full review of U.S. offshore drilling policy, with the expected result being vast new areas opened up for energy exploration.

But environmental activists say Mr. Obama’s prior policy should stand, and that the new administration doesn’t have the legal authority to reverse it.

“Citing the dangers to communities and wildlife of offshore oil and gas exploration and development, the sensitivity of marine resources in the regions, the need to address climate change, the adequacy of energy sources near existing infrastructure elsewhere, and various barriers to development of the Arctic and Atlantic areas in question, President Obama withdrew them from future oil and gas leasing,” wrote the coalition, which includes the League of Conservation Voters, Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups.

“He made the withdrawals pursuant to his authority under Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA),” they continued. “Neither OCSLA nor any other provision of law authorizes presidents to undo such withdrawals.”

While the act doesn’t explicitly authorize such a reversal, it doesn’t prohibit one either, making Mr. Trump’s latest energy action legally controversial and all but ensuring federal judges will decide whether it can move forward.

“Analysis of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and its previous applications, shows three problems with President Obama’s ban on Arctic offshore energy. There’s no precedent to show a ban should be permanent, there is nothing to suggest a subsequent White House cannot overturn the decision, and that the last administration’s application of the rule conflicts with the act’s wider specification to ensure [the Outer Continental Shelf] is ‘available for expeditious and orderly development,’” said Oliver Williams, spokesperson for the Arctic Energy Center, a joint initiative of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association and the Independent Petroleum Association of America.


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