With the ink barely dry on an order to review U.S. offshore drilling rights, environmental groups said preparations are already underway for a legal challenge. U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced last Thursday that President Donald Trump has an executive order in place to review the five-year program for offshore oil and gas development. In one of his final moves in office, former President Barack Obama used parts of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to ban oil and gas work in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the coast of Alaska, as well as Atlantic coast areas. Environmental groups said they were alarmed that the Trump administration aimed to put more acreage on the auction block, including possibly some of the first offers for offshore California in decades.
Tim Donaghy, a senior research specialist with Greenpeace, told UPI before Zinke’s announcement that the OCSLA gives the president the authority to withdraw some areas from oil and gas leasing consideration, but not the authority to put those lease considerations back on the table. After the announcement, environmental groups Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council said they were drafting a lawsuit to challenge the Trump administration. “Trump’s short-sighted order reverses climate progress and imperils coastal communities, irreplaceable wildlife, and our shared future,” Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen said in a statement. “It is also against the law.”