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Trump’s Arctic Drill Plan Challenged by Environmental Groups

Public Policy

Environmental groups are challenging President Donald Trump’s attempt to restore oil and gas leasing on more than 125 million acres in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, arguing that a warming world doesn’t need the fossil fuels they contain.

The League of Conservation Voters, The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club and seven other conservation groups sued Wednesday in federal court in Alaska, taking aim at Trump’s attempt to make the acreage available for a new generation of oil exploration. President Barack Obama had moved to put those areas off limits for new oil leases.

The case joins a flurry of other lawsuits battling Trump’s recent moves to undo environmental regulations and climate policies imposed by his predecessor. It could decide how much authority presidents have to dictate when and where offshore drilling should take place, as the first test of a 64-year-old statute empowering presidents to rule out the activity “from time to time.”

“Were President Trump able to get away with this, the country would lose an important tool for protecting its vital interest in clean and vibrant oceans and coasts,” said Niel Lawrence, Alaska director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is both a plaintiff and legal counsel in the case. “By now it’s clear there is no legitimate public interest in further expanding risk to our oceans in pursuit of fossil fuels that we don’t need.”

The Natural Defense Council and Earthjustice, environmental litigation groups, are providing lawyers to help fight the case.

An Interior Department spokeswoman declined to comment, referring queries to the Justice Department. The Justice Department didn’t have an immediate comment on the lawsuit.

It’s the first lawsuit by the League of Conservation Voters, whose main focus in its 48-year-history has been grading elected lawmakers for their track record supporting the environment.

League President Gene Karpinski said the group was taking the unprecedented step to preserve the hard-fought protections advanced by Obama.

“President Trump is trying to erase all the climate and environmental progress we’ve made,” Karpinski said in a Medium post. “We aren’t about to go down without a fight, and by joining this litigation, we are signaling to Congress our resolute and growing commitment to defending the Arctic and Atlantic permanent protections and halting the expansion of risky offshore drilling.”

The groups are trying to preserve past Obama declarations withdrawing most U.S. Arctic waters and about 4 million acres of the Atlantic Ocean along the U.S. East Coast from future oil and gas leasing.

Executive Order

In an executive order signed Friday, Trump modified the text of three of Obama’s directives so they now refer to entirely different territory previously designated for protection in 2008.

Trump’s order also explicitly revoked Obama’s designation of a 112,300-square-mile Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience area, an action that was backed by Alaska Natives. The lawsuit filed Wednesday doesn’t target that revocation.

The legal dispute centers on a provision in a 1953 law known as the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act that allows the president to, “from time to time, withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer continental shelf.” Supporters say Trump’s action is in keeping with the authority Congress gave presidents to determine which U.S. coastal waters are up for grabs for oil, natural gas and mineral development.

No Precedent

“There’s no precedent to show a ban should be permanent” and “there is nothing to suggest a subsequent White House cannot overturn the decision,” the industry-sponsored Arctic Energy Center said in an emailed statement. The group said the Obama administration’s withdrawals also conflict with Congress’s imperative to make U.S. coastal waters available “for expeditious and orderly development.”

The obscure provision had been used to preserve coral reefs and walrus grounds — and environmentalists said it was appropriate for Obama to seize it to protect fragile, remote Arctic waters from energy development.

The law doesn’t give presidents the power to undo a withdrawal of territory once it’s made, the environmentalists said. It’s Congress which has the authority to manage territory belonging to the federal government, and the president can regulate it only to the extent Congress authorizes him to do so, the groups said in the complaint.

“Until Trump, no president has ever tried to reverse a permanent withdrawal” made under that law, the conservation groups said in a joint statement. “President Trump’s April 28 executive order exceeds his constitutional and statutory authority and violates federal law.”

Trump has ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to consider scheduling new sales of drilling rights along the U.S. coastline, with an eye on annual auctions of territory in the western and central Gulf of Mexico, the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska and the mid- and south-Atlantic. A surge in domestic drilling could unleash American ” dominance” in energy production, Zinke told oil industry executives gathered at a summit in Houston.

Trump’s executive order seeking to ban people from six mostly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. and his threat to cut off some funding to so-called sanctuary cities have been challenged successfully, so far, with judges blocking their implementation.

The case is Kanam v. U.S. Department of Interior, 17-cv-00010, U.S. District Court, District of Alaska (Fairbanks.)

RIGZONE



64 Comments on "Trump’s Arctic Drill Plan Challenged by Environmental Groups"

  1. Davy on Thu, 4th May 2017 3:58 pm 

    Doom clog, what is so hard to understand about that? More precisely togetherness of doom. We are flying apart as a global people together. There is no decoupling from this. Fantasies of new empires Euro or Asian are misplaced. These areas will decay and decline along with North America. There is no indication any region will survive intact the end of globalism. Something will shake out but it won’t be a makati Asia nor a clog Paris, Berlin, Moscow Europe.

  2. Davy on Thu, 4th May 2017 4:09 pm 

    Der hund, you need to build a 3 gorge dam to make economical power. There is nowhere you could flood that much ground on the Mississippi or Missouri and be a 3 gorge dam. The topography does not work. Small hydro power along the river is fine but that will never amount to much. The Mississippi is an inland waterway complicating the issue more.

  3. Cloggie on Thu, 4th May 2017 4:27 pm 

    The real immanent doom:

    https://www.infowars.com/tectonic-explosion-soon-to-spark-civil-unrest/

    Trump and the Correspondance Dinner Swamp aligators making fun of each other at a distance. That’s more scary than young people going at each others throat in Berkeley.

  4. joe on Thu, 4th May 2017 4:37 pm 

    Cloggie defends Hitler by claiming he was a poor leader who could find no other way than to gas millions of people to death. “Honest guv, the reds made me do it…..!”
    Poor Hitler, I hope the flames of hell burn him slightly less tonight…..

  5. DerHundistlos on Thu, 4th May 2017 6:01 pm 

    Davy, then how do you explain the Keokuk hydro. dam on the Mississippi River that has been generating 143MW from 15 main turbine-generator units for more than 100 years?

  6. Davy on Thu, 4th May 2017 6:24 pm 

    There is a big difference between 143MW and 22,500MW of the 3 gorges dam.

  7. Cloggie on Thu, 4th May 2017 6:35 pm 

    “Cloggie defends Hitler by claiming he was a poor leader who could find no other way than to gas millions of people to death. “Honest guv, the reds made me do it…..!””

    No idiot, I am attacking the idea of victors of a war playing the judge in a victors trial. But what does a self-declared Stalin groupie like you know about justice.

  8. DerHundistlos on Thu, 4th May 2017 9:04 pm 

    Davy,

    I don’t understand why you say Keokuk size dams would not be economical.15 Keokuk dams equals the generating capacity of 3 Gorges. To have all your capacity in a single generating station seems awfully risky.

  9. Davy on Fri, 5th May 2017 12:57 am 

    Der Hund, I am no expert on dams but my point is Keokuk is 143MW and 3 Gorges is 22,500MW. We are talking extreme examples but the difference is 157 times unless my math is bad. I think the cost of 157 such dams would be prohibitive especially considering the farming potential along the river. Many towns would be impacted and need to be moved. This is not China where people can be forced to move at such levels. The uproar in congress would be huge. The environmentalist have stopped many dam projects in the states and rightly because we have dammed too many rivers already. We are out of money as a country for large projects. I was once very active in AmericanRivers.org and was once a Stream Team member. None of us wanted more river dammed. My own state is full of small dams that have altered the hydrologic cycle of many beautiful rivers. The Mississippi and Missouri are now being improved for wildlife instead of more dams. I see no trend back to dams. We probably should try to get electric from any of the existing 29 lock and dams that line the Mississippi river. Why they don’t already is a matter of research. Many lock and dams need to be upgraded soon and that upgrade should probably include hydro power generation.

  10. Cloggie on Fri, 5th May 2017 3:49 am 

    @Hound – America is a developed country and you can safely assume that all opportunities to exploit hydro-power have long been exhausted, because there is nothing cheaper and convenient than hydro-power.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_River

    Map:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mississippiriver-new-01.png

    If you pinpoint St. Louis, 600 miles from the ocean, you have an elevation of merely 142 m. Memphis 103 m. That’s 39 meters difference over a distance of 282 miles. If you would venture to build a dam of say 20 m between these two cities, you would automatically flood enormous quantities of arable land. The Heartland is simply too flat for hydro-power. The Three Gorges Dam isn’t called that way for nothing: you need mountains to confine the large amounts of water:

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ab/ThreeGorgesDam-China2009.jpg

    The dam achieves a height difference of 65 meters, that’s almost double the amount of elevation difference between Memphis and St. Louis.

    Better stick to solar panels and wind turbines.

  11. rockman on Fri, 5th May 2017 4:52 am 

    The site of the dam on the Mississippi River is very unique and rarely found in the US. IOW in cannot be used as a model for generalized hydro in the US and certainly not in the lower reaches of the Mississippi River:

    Large rapids once existed on the Mississippi River at Keokuk. The rapids had a total water fall of 28 feet. This meant that Keokuk was the head of navigation on the Mississippi River since boats could go no further north. Cargo that needed to travel up the upper river had to be off-loaded.

    Building the dam was a monumental project, much like the modern day building of the Aswan High Dam or the Three Gorges project. When finished the dam in was the largest hydro power project in the world, producing 125-megawatts.

    The Keokuk power station is unusual in that it is a ‘run of the river’ plant. That means that all water flowing down the river has to pass through the dam, power plant, or locks each day. There is no storage capacity in the upstream pond. This is different from many hydro power projects where the high water from spring runoff is captured and stored, then released later in the year as the river flow decreases. Over nearly 100 years of operation, the Keokuk Dam pond is filling with sediment due to the slowing of the river water in that area. The dam pond has been filled in by 50-percent so far.

    {FYI – A portion of the electrical out put is used to operate the locks:}

    In 2004, 15,271 loaded barges passed through Lock #19. Commodities accounted for 24.2-million tons, of which 8.8-million tons were headed up-river, while 15.4-million tons were headed down-river. In addition, 883 recreational vessels passed through the lock.

  12. Cloggie on Fri, 5th May 2017 5:57 am 

    Apneaman opines: I do not care. Fuck the Dutch, fuck the Germans, Fuck the Americans and fuck the Canadians.

    But you will never say “Fuck Israel”, eh, you little “tribal cancer monkey”.

  13. Apneaman on Fri, 5th May 2017 9:42 am 

    hair clog, the Israelis are white right? Then I damn well hate them too. Fucking kikes. I hate em all clog. In fact I am one of the only 100% pure & true racist on the planet. I hate red neck, inbred white trash crackers. I hate over privileged white bread. I hate chinks. I hate spics. I hate niggers. I hate gooks, I hate ragheads, I hate wagon burners and I hate igloo building, whale fat eating, nose rubbing Eskimos too. I hate em all god damn it. I can’t wait for SETI to discover life on another planet so I can fucking hate them too.

    DEATH TO THE HUMANS!DEATH TO THE HUMANS! DEATH TO THE HUMANS! DEATH TO THE HUMANS! DEATH TO THE HUMANS!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Md7OvU5JIcI

    Did I mention how much I hate the stupid dutch? O don’t get me going on about that.

  14. Davy on Fri, 5th May 2017 9:48 am 

    I know someone you don’t hate Ape, your wonderful mom!

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