Environmental groups sue to block Trump’s offshore drilling order

An oil platform off the coast of Santa Barbara in 2009.
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Less than a week after President Trump moved to open protected coastal waters to offshore oil drilling, environmental groups are pushing back with a federal lawsuit.

The suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Alaska, claims Trump has no legal authority to undo protections adopted by President Obama.

Obama in 2015 and 2016 withdrew waters in the Arctic Ocean and off the Atlantic coast from future oil and gas leasing.

Trump’s April 28 executive order calls for the Interior Department to “give full consideration” to revising oil and gas leasing schedules to includes those areas. Although the order does not mention California, it also opened the door to more offshore drilling on the West Coast.

California officials immediately condemned the order and vowed to use their powers to fight any new oil development off the state’s shores.


In the federal lawsuit, attorneys for Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council argue that the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act gives presidents the authority to withdraw undeveloped waters from leasing — but does not authorize them to withdraw the protections.

“President Trump’s order exceeds his constitutional authority and his statutory authority,” the suit states.

“He’s just making these blustery grand pronouncements through his executive orders. … [But] there are legal hooks to say, ‘Wait, you can’t do this,’” Earthjustice attorney Trent Orr said when Trump signed the order.

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