On Tuesday, President Barack Obama invoked a provision of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands act, a law from 1953, that allowed him to place “a permanent drilling ban on portions of the ocean floor from Virginia to Maine and along much of Alaska’s coast.” Overall, it adds up to almost 120 million acres! No other president has used this provision to protect such a large part of federal waters before and he promised not even President-elect Donald Trump could undo this declaration.
But Alaska lawmakers Sen. Dan Sullivan, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and Rep. Dan Young said they want to find a way to draft legislation to overturn Obama’s actions:
“The sweeping withdrawal disrespects the Alaskan people, is not based on sound science, and contradicts the administration’s own conclusions about Arctic development,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young said late Tuesday. “It will have lasting consequences for Alaska’s economy, state finances, and the security and competitiveness of the nation. In making the decision, President Obama yet again sided with extreme environmentalists, while betraying his utter lack of commitment to improving the lives of the people who actually live in the Arctic.”
The Hill reported:
The legislation could either authorize the president to undo any prior offshore protections, or simply overturn the specific bans from Obama.
“The Congressman believes this decision can be overturned by the incoming Administration and will be encouraging President Trump to do so. In addition, Congressman Young will also pursue legislation to overturn this decision,” said Matt Shuckerow, Young’s spokesman, told The Hill.
With both sides in the fight bracing for the long-haul, and for the likelihood that it could end up in the courts, the lawmakers want to make Congress’s views clear.
“Ambiguities in the law will create an opportunity for litigation by the very extreme environmental groups that President Obama was pandering to,” said Mike Anderson, Sullivan’s spokesman. “It doesn’t mean their litigation would succeed, but just as with any number of actions the new administration might undertake, Congress can buttress those decisions with statutory support.”
Slight catch, though. The ban “does not affect existing leases and would not affect a nearshore area of the Beaufort Sea, totaling about 2.8 million acres, that has high oil and gas potential and is adjacent to existing state oil and gas activity and infrastructure, according to the Department of the Interior.
A new president has never tried to undo a previous president’s drilling ban.”
Like I said, Obama’s team believes Trump cannot touch his ban:
“There is no provision on OCSLA which provides for the reversal of a presidential withdrawal under section 12(a),” a senior administration official told reporters.
“We believe there is a strong legal basis that these withdrawals as well as all the prior indefinite withdrawals will go forward and will withstand the test of time.”
President Bill Clinton did the exact same thing before he left office, used this “law to withdraw 300 million acres from oil and gas drilling from an area that had already been designated as a marine sanctuary.” While President George W. Bush did not fully overturn that ban, he “cut that moratorium short by four years and rescinded it in 2008.”
There is a way the GOP can stop it:
Experts say that there could be one avenue for Republicans to undo the ban: Congress could go back and amend the 1953 law, explicitly allowing presidents to reverse the drilling bans of their predecessors. However, that would require a 60-vote Senate majority to clear procedural hurdles, a challenge in a Senate with 52 Republicans.
“They’ll be arguing about this for years in the courts,” said Mr. [Patrick] Paranteau, the Vermont law professor. “It would be surprising if the Republican Congress didn’t do anything about it in the meantime.”
The administration’s wording could also help Trump turn this around:
“It is pretty clear that this is a hollow 11th hour action,” Christopher Guith, a senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “In spite of the narrative that extreme interest groups who pushed the White House to do this, there’s nothing about this that’s permanent. The White House itself didn’t use the phrase permanent, they said it was ‘indefinite.’”
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