US. President Donald Trump hears a question as he talks to reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, USA on March 29, 201
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – A Federal Judge In Alaska, US President Donald Trump has lifted the attempt to open oil and gas leasing in large areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.
The ruling, passed on Friday by US District Court Judge Sharon Gleason, leaves President Barack Obama's policies unaffected by the Arctic Chukchi Sea, a part of Lake Arctic's Beaufort Lake much of the Atlantic off the eastern coast of the US is reserved for the oil industry leasing.
Trump's attempt to revoke Obama's protection was "unlawful" and a violation of federal law on outer continental shelf areas, Gleason judged. Under this law, presidents have the power to cancel areas of the national oil and gas leasing program, as Obama did, but only Congress has the power to add more areas to the leasing program, she said.
Obama's bans on leases "remain in full force and will be effective unless they are revoked by Congress," Gleason said in her ruling.
Trump's attempt to re-use the offshore Arctic and Atlantic for oil production came in 2017 as part of his Energy Dominance agenda. The mandate was part of a series of measures that overruled the Obama administration's environmental and climate change initiatives.
The Trump government has proposed a significantly expanded offshore oil leasing program this year. The five-year Trump leasing program would allow two leases per year in Arctic waters and at least two leases per year in the Atlantic. The Trump Plan also envisages several leases in remote marine areas off Alaska, such as the southern Bering Sea, which are considered to have negligible oil potential.
Obama had ripped most of the Arctic out of the auction block following a Royal Dutch Shell-led offshore exploration program in the Arctic. Shell spends at least $ 7 billion exploring the Chukchi and part of the Beaufort. The company destroyed one of its drillships in a grounding and managed to sink only one hole. She has abandoned the program in 2015 and abandoned the leases.
Gleason made another decision on Friday in another case blocking the Trump administration's efforts to overthrow an Obama era environmental decision.
Gleason cut down a land trade that was supposed to pave the way for a road to be built in sensitive wetlands in Alaska's Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. The Obama administration, after a four-year environmental impact assessment process, ruled that land trafficking and road traffic caused too much damage to the shelter. Trump's then Home Secretary, Ryan Zinke, violated the law when he briefly reversed Obama's policy, ignoring the facts found in the government's earlier study on the issue, Gleason said.
Report by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage, Alaska; Editing by James Dalgleish