A US federal appeals court dealt the final blow to former President Donald Trump’s attempt to open nearly 130 million acres of territory in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans to oil and gas drilling.
What is Happening?
- In 2017, Trump signed an executive order aiming to undo an Obama-era ban on fossil fuel exploration and drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic territories, but a federal judge in Alaska ruled the move unlawful in 2019. The Trump administration appealed the ruling, but President Joe Biden revoked the 2017 order shortly after taking office, rendering the court case moot. Finally, last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to dismiss the Trump administration’s appeal.
- In its order, the court said, “Because the terms of the challenged Executive Order are no longer in effect, the relevant areas of the [Outer Continental Shelf] in the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, and Atlantic Ocean will be withdrawn from exploration and development activities.”
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Erik Grafe of Earthjustice, which represented a coalition of advocacy groups that challenged Trump’s order, said in a statement, “we welcome today’s decision and its confirmation of President Obama’s legacy of ocean and climate protection. As the Biden administration considers its next steps, it should build on these foundations, end fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters, and embrace a clean energy future that does not come at the expense of wildlife and our natural heritage.”
- In January, Biden ordered a temporary pause on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters, a decision hailed by environmentalists as a positive step that should be made permanent.
- Biden has been very vocal about his intention to make climate change a priority in his administration’s policies. However, in March, climate groups voiced outrage when Biden allowed officials to continue processing existing permits for drilling on public lands.
At the time, Food & Water Watch policy director Mitch Jones said, “We call on President Biden to keep his promise: a full and complete ban on fracking and fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Full stop. The climate crisis requires it and he promised it.”
Featured image by: Flickr