Conservationists' lawsuit against President Trump heads to court
Did President Donald Trump have the authority to allow oil and gas leasing on land former President Barack Obama took off the table? That’s what a federal court will have to decide, but first Judge Sharon Gleason must decide if the case can actually go to court.
Several conservation groups like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Wilderness Society, are suing the president on the grounds he overstepped his authority.
In April, the president signed an executive order that opens up the Beaufort and Chukchi seas for oil and gas exploration. Those two areas add up to 125 million acres of the outer continental shelf Obama barred from further development before he left office.
Erik Grafe, a staff attorney for Earth Justice, argued the case for the conservation groups in federal court Wednesday morning.
An attorney with the American Petroleum Institute and one with the Department of Justice represented President Trump in court. They told the judge it’s too soon for the case to go before the court because there’s no imminent harm being done.
Grafe said allowing possible leasing means seismic testing companies can get started right now and that has the potential to hurt wildlife in the area.
He said under the statute Obama used the president only has the authority to withdraw land from consideration.
“It doesn’t’ say you can undo those withdrawals and there’s no power to undo it,” Grafe said. “Yet President Trump came in and said ‘I’m undoing it and I‘m opening it up for oil and gas drilling and I’m encouraging industry to go in there and do it quickly'. He didn’t have the authority to do that.”
If Judge Gleason decides the case can move forward, it will go to court where the judge will then hear the merits of the argument. If she dismisses the case, the conservation groups could have a chance to appeal that decision.