Anchorage judge to decide whether Trump can overturn Obama order on offshore leasing

Published: Nov. 9, 2018 at 2:57 PM AKST
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Did President Trump have the right to rescind an order by his predecessor, Barack Obama, that put large chunks of the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic off-limits to drilling?

In a federal courtroom in Anchorage Friday environmental lawyers said Trump didn’t. Government lawyers said he did.

After oral arguments in the case of the League of Conservation Voters v. Donald Trump, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason took the case under advisement, but didn’t say when she’d issue a ruling.

Nine other environmental groups are party to the case along with the League of Conservation Voters. Trump and two cabinet members are named as defendants. The State of Alaska and the American Petroleum Institute have intervened on his behalf.

At issue are the 2017 order by Trump, a 2015 order by Obama, and the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Arguing the case for the environmental plaintiffs, Erik Grafe, an EarthJustice attorney in Anchorage, said the 1953 law doesn’t allow a president to rescind the order of another that protects offshore lands.

Jeffrey Wood, an assistant attorney general, argued that Grafe’s position is unreasonable — what one president can order, another should be able to undo, and that the law showed that Congress wanted presidents to manage leasing.

Obama withdrew big swaths of the Arctic Ocean's outer continental shelf from leasing. Trump, citing his “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” sought to withdraw Obama’s order, potentially leasing those sites for oil development.