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US judge scraps Trump order opening Arctic, Atlantic areas to oil leasing

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A federal judge in Alaska has overturned U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempt to open vast areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans to oil and gas leasing.

The decision issued late Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason leaves intact President Barack Obama’s policies putting 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.

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Trump’s attempt to undo Obama’s protections was “unlawful” and a violation of the federal Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, Gleason ruled. Presidents have the power under that law to withdraw areas from the national oil and gas leasing program, as Obama did, but only Congress has the power to add areas to the leasing program, she said.

The Obama-imposed leasing prohibitions “will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress,” Gleason said in her ruling.

Trump’s move to put offshore Arctic and Atlantic areas back into play for oil development came in a 2017 executive order that was part of his “energy dominance” agenda. The order was among a series of actions that jettisoned Obama administration environmental and climate-change initiatives.

The Trump administration has proposed a vastly expanded offshore oil leasing program to start this year. The five-year Trump leasing program would offer two lease sales a year in Arctic waters and at least two lease sales a year in the Atlantic. The Trump plan also calls for several lease sales in remote marine areas off Alaska, like the southern Bering Sea, that are considered to hold negligible potential for oil.

Obama had pulled much of the Arctic off the auction block following a troubled offshore Arctic exploration program pursued by Royal Dutch Shell. Shell spent at least $7 billion trying to explore the Chukchi and part of the Beaufort. The company wrecked one of its drill ships in a grounding and managed to complete only one well to depth. It abandoned the program in 2015 and relinquished its leases.

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Gleason, in a separate case, delivered another decision Friday that blocks the Trump administration’s effort to overturn an Obama-era environmental decision.

Gleason struck down a land trade intended to clear the way for a road to be built though sensitive wetlands in Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. The Obama administration, after a four-year environmental impact statement process, determined that the land trade and road would cause too much harm to the refuge to be justified. Trump’s then Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke broke the law when he summarily reversed the Obama policy without addressing the facts found in the previous administration’s study of the issue, Gleason ruled.


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French hospital halts trials of Trump-promoted COVID-19 drug due to worries about heart failure

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President Donald Trump's promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 has drawn criticism from medical experts who say much more work needs to be done before anyone can say it's effective at stopping the disease.

And now one hospital in France has stopped its testing of hydroxychloroquine on COVID-19 patients over worries that the drug poses a "toxic risk" to people's hearts when taken in combination with other drugs.

French newspaper Nice Matin reports that Nice University Hospital "immediately stopped" its use of hydroxychloroquine in patients who exhibit "major risks" of suffering heart failure due to the drug.

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Economist who hoped for ‘V-shaped’ recovery now predicting a prolonged downturn even worse than the Great Recession

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Tim Bartik is among the economists who has described the type of “V-shaped” economic recovery he would like to see in the United States following the coronavirus pandemic. Ideally, Bartik has asserted, all the businesses that have been shut down by the pandemic would reopen quickly when it’s safe to do so and put millions of Americans back to work. But journalist Andy Balaskovitz, in an article published in MiBiz on April 8, explains why Bartik (a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Michigan) now believes that predictions of a “V-shaped recovery” are wishful thinking — and why Americans are in for a lot of economic pain in the months ahead.

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‘Recipe for disaster’: Officials in Florida city say they face ‘unimaginable’ potential death from COVID-19

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Officials in the Florida city of Hialeah are warning that they are uniquely vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic and face the possibility of "unimaginable" death from the disease.

In interviews with The Daily Beast, the officials explained how their large population of senior citizens is at grave risk if Hialeah erupts as a major COVID-19 hotspot.

"I think it is going to get a lot worse," Hialeah Councilman Jesus Tundidor tells The Daily Beast. “The experts have been telling us to expect a peak [in Florida] near the end of the month. As we get more testing sites up and running, the more positive cases we will see. And that will create more fear."

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