Chair Grijalva Hails Pair of Court Rulings Reversing Trump Environmental Overreach - “Not the Last Reckoning He’ll Face”

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today hailed a pair of new federal rulings in Alaska finding President Trump’s environmental attacks not just legally void, but illustrative of the wider illegality of the administration’s deregulatory approach. The rulings - both by Sharon Gleason, U.S. District Judge for the District of Alaska - reversed a Trump executive order that opened the Arctic to oil drilling and a separate Trump administration order authorizing the construction of a road through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

In December 2016, President Obama permanently protected almost all of the Outer Continental Shelf in Arctic U.S. waters from fossil fuel drilling through authority created by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). In April 2017, Trump signed an executive order attempting to undo Obama’s protections, initiating the process for creating a new five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program that would include all the waters Obama protected.

In a ruling last night with ominous legal implications for Trump’s anti-environment agenda, Gleason found that OCSLA gives presidents the power to protect areas of the OCS but not the power to remove those protections unilaterally once they’re established. Pointing to the Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the power to establish but not shrink or eliminate national monuments, as a law with a similar function, Gleason found that only Congress can remove presidentially established protective features - a bad sign for Trump’s order shrinking Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, which is itself being challenged in multiple federal cases.

In a separate case, Gleason ruled yesterday that then Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s January 2018 order authorizing a road through Izembek was “arbitrary and capricious” because it provided no rationale for overturning a December 2013 finding by Obama officials that the road would not be in the public interest. Gleason vacated the order and blocked the road’s construction.

“President Trump and his supporters have spent two years insisting he can invent whatever policy he wants, whenever and however it suits him,” Grijalva said today. “The courts said this week that this country is not his sandbox and the environment isn’t his to trash as he pleases. The American people are tired of a lawless president with an appetite for spite and destruction, and these rulings aren’t the last or largest reckoning he’s going to face.”

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