Legal Newsline

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Alaska court: Conservation groups can challenge Trump's reversal of drilling ban

By Amanda Thomas | May 8, 2018

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Legal Newsline) – A federal judge has denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s reversal of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans drilling ban.

In a March 19 ruling, U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason for the District of Alaska denied a motion to dismiss the case brought against Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Gleason rejected arguments from the Trump administration and the American Petroleum Institute that public-interest advocates were barred from challenging the decision.

The federal defendants argued they are immune from the suit under sovereign immunity and other counts. The court disagreed.

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A coalition of 10 groups sued Trump in May 2017 over his attempt to drop a permanent ban on new offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. The lead plaintiff is the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). This is LCV’s first legal challenge

“This is an important reminder that the president is not above judicial review of his actions, but it is just the first step,” LCV President Gene Karpinski said in a press release. 

“The threat of devastating oil spills associated with Trump’s risky offshore drilling proposal puts coastal economies and ways of life at risk while worsening the consequences of climate change.” 

Now, the court will determine whether Trump broke the law in April in trying to undo protections established under then-President Barack Obama.

The groups challenging Trump’s decision are the LCV, Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, REDOIL (Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands), Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society. The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys at Earthjustice and Natural Resources Defenses Council. 

“President Trump tried to shut the courthouse door,” Erik Grafe, an attorney with Earthjustice said in a statement. “We now look forward to demonstrating to the court that President Trump violated the law and the constitution in attempting to undo the Arctic and Atlantic drilling ban.”

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Organizations in this Story

Natural Resources Defense CouncilU.S. District Court for the District of AlaskaLeague of Conservation Voters