Obama blocked Trump from offshore oil drilling; House votes to oppose drilling
By David Pendered
President Obama’s administration blocked President Trump from expanding the area open to offshore oil drilling, including off Georgia’s coast, a federal judge has ruled. On a related front, the Georgia House approved Tuesday a resolution opposing the exploration and drilling for oil off Georgia’s coast.
The passage of Georgia House Resolution 48 marks the first time either chamber of the state Legislature has taken a stance against oil exploration and extraction off the Georgia coast.
Jennette Gayer, director of Environment Georgia and an advocate of HR 48, observed immediately after the vote:
- “We’re glad Georgia is joining our neighbors in official opposition to oil and gas drilling off our beautiful coast. We hope this sends a clear message to the federal government. Our elected House members overwhelmingly supported this resolution despite strong opposition from oil and gas lobbyists.”
The federal court ruling against Trump’s offshore drilling plan upheld the case brought by an environmental group, the League of Conservation Voters. The group filed a federal lawsuit against Trump and his administration, plus two interveners on Trump’s side – the American Petroleum Institute and State of Alaska.
The ruling obliterated the heart of Trump’s executive order to revoke Obama’s decisions to withdraw from oil exploration and drilling land on the Outer Continental Shelf off the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.
Specifically, the ruling eliminated a section of Trump’s executive order that reverted the territory that is withdrawn from drilling to the marine sanctuaries as they were designated on July 14, 2008.
The environmentalists had contended that only Congress has the authority to revoke a president’s ruling to withdraw areas from the Outer Continental shelf for mineral leasing. This is how the judge summarized their case:
- “Plaintiffs assert that under the Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the authority to revoke a prior withdrawal was not delegated by this statute to the President and thus remains vested solely with Congress.”
U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason concurred with the plaintiffs. The judge observed:
- “Although Congress clearly sought more leasing, it did not seek unbridled leasing.”
Gleason later observed of a series of opinions by U.S. attorneys general:
- “Congress has previously authorized the President to tie future Presidents’ hands. As one of the Attorney General opinions cited by Plaintiffs states, ‘My predecessors have held that if public lands are reserved by the President for a particular purpose under express authority of an act of Congress, the President is thereafter without authority to abolish such reservation.’”
At this point, a decision by President Eisenhower, a Republican, to create the nation’s first undersea park at a coral reef off the Florida coast found its way into Gleason’s ruling:
- “President Eisenhower seems to have agreed on this point. His establishment of the Key Largo Coral Reef Preserve, the first withdrawal under Section 12(a), sought to ‘preserve the scenic and scientific values of this area unimpaired for the benefit of future generations.’”
Gleason was nominated to the federal bench by President Obama. Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski supported the nomination of Gleason, a former Superior Court judge in Anchorage. According to a statement from her office, Murkowski said during her remarks on the Senate floor:
- “She is and will continue to be a superb judge.”