A federal judge in Alaska has overturned the US President’s attempt to open areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans to oil and gas leasing. Late on Friday March 29th US District Court Judge Sharon Gleason kept ex-President Obama’s policy, which placed the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea, part of the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea and a large swathe of the Atlantic Ocean off the US East Coast off-limits to oil leasing.
President Trump’s move was deemed by Gleason to be “unlawful” and a violation of the federal Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Under that Act US presidents have the power to withdraw areas from the national oil and gas leasing programme, as Obama did, but only Congress has the power to add them.
Ex-president Obama had made the changes following a $7bn offshore Arctic exploration programme pursued by Royal Dutch Shell. The company only completed one well to depth and abandoned the programme in 2015, relinquishing its leases.