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Judge scraps Trump order for Arctic, Atlantic oil leasing



ANCHORAGE, Alaska, March 30 (Reuters) – A federal judge in Alaska has overturned U.S. President Donald Trump's attempt to open vast areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans to oil and gas leasing

District Court Judge Sharon Gleason leaves intact President Barack Obama's policies putting Arctic's Chukchi Sea, part of Arctic's Beaufort Sea and a large swath of Atlantic Ocean off the US

Trump's attempt to reverse Obama's protections was "unlawful" and a violation of the federal Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, Gleason ruled.

RELATED: Coastal Alaskan RELATED: Coastal Alaskan See the Gallery

SHISHMAREF, AK – JULY 09: The village of Shishmaref, Alaska, which is a city of global warming, drilling

9 sits on the Chukchi Sea, is seen on July 9, 2015. Earlier this year, Obama administration approved Shell Oil to begin drilling for oil in Arctic regions, including Chukchi Sea. Shishmaref has also built a seawall due to a decades-long problem with coastal erosion that has shrunk the size of the barrier island the town is built upon. The city was originally supposed to be relocated to a new site, though that plan has been put on hold. (Photo by Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

SHISHMAREF, AK – JULY 09: The Chukchi Sea is seen near Shishmaref, Alaska, on July 9, 2015. Earlier this year the Obama administration approved Shell Oil to begin drilling for oil in Arctic regions, including the Chukchi Sea. Shishmaref has also built a seawall due to a decades-long problem with coastal erosion that has shrunk the size of the barrier island the town is built upon. The city was originally supposed to be relocated to a new site, though that plan has been put on hold. (Photo by Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

SHISHMAREF, AK – JULY 09: Cliff Weyiouanna relaxes in his home after breakfast on July 9, 2015 in Shishmaref, Alaska. Earlier this year, Obama administration approved Shell Oil to begin drilling for oil in Arctic regions, including the Chukchi Sea. Shishmaref has also built a seawall due to a decades-long problem with coastal erosion that has shrunk the size of the barrier island the town is built upon. The city was originally supposed to be relocated to a new site, though that plan has been put on hold. (Photo by Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

SHISHMAREF, AK – JULY 08: A view of the beach along a barrier island in Chukchi Sea, is seen on July 8, 2015 in Shishmaref, Alaska. Earlier this year, the Obama administration approved Shell Oil to begin drilling for oil in Arctic regions, including the Chukchi Sea, worrying locals who live in the region and disappointing conservationists. (Photo by Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

SHISHMAREF, AK – JULY 07: The tide comes on a beach along the Chukchi Sea on July 7, 2015 in Shishmaref, Alaska. Earlier this year, the Obama administration approved Shell Oil to begin drilling for oil in Arctic regions, including the Chukchi Sea, worrying locals who live in the region and disappointing conservationists. (Photo by Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

SHISHMAREF, AK – JULY 07: Rusting barrels sit on the beach along the Chukchi Sea on July 7, 2015 in Shishmaref, Alaska. Earlier this year, the Obama administration approved Shell Oil to begin drilling for oil in Arctic regions, including the Chukchi Sea, worrying locals who live in the region and disappointing conservationists. (Photo by Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

SHISHMAREF, AK – JULY 07: A house sits on the edge of the Chukchi Sea on July 7, 2015 in Shishmaref, Alaska. Earlier this year, the Obama administration approved Shell Oil to begin drilling for oil in Arctic regions, including the Chukchi Sea, worrying locals who live in the region and disappointing conservationists. (Photo by Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

SHISHMAREF, AK – JULY 08: Wild flowers grow on a beach along the Chukchi Sea on July 8, 2015 in Shishmaref, Alaska. Earlier this year, the Obama administration approved Shell Oil to begin drilling for oil in Arctic regions, including the Chukchi Sea, worrying locals who live in the region and disappointing conservationists. (Photo by Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

SHISHMAREF, AK – JULY 09: The village of Shishmaref, Alaska, which sits on the Chukchi Sea, is seen on July 9, 2015. Earlier this year Obama administration approved Shell Oil to begin drilling for oil in Arctic regions, including the Chukchi Sea. Shishmaref has also built a seawall due to a decades-long problem with coastal erosion that has shrunk the size of the barrier island the town is built upon. The city was originally supposed to be relocated to a new site, though that plan has been put on hold. (19659019) HIDE CAPTION

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The Obama-imposed leasing prohibitions "will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress," Gleason said in her ruling.

Trump's move to put offshore Arctic and Atlantic areas back into play for oil development came in a 2017 executive order that was part of his "energy dominance" agenda.

The Trump administration has proposed a vastly expanded offshore oil leasing program to start this year. The five-year Trump Leasing program would offer two lease sales a year in Arctic waters and at least two lease sales a year in the Atlantic. The Trump plan also calls for several lease sales in remote marine areas off Alaska, like the southern Bering Sea, which are considered to hold a negligible potential for oil.

Obama had pulled much of the Arctic off the auction block following a troubled offshore Arctic exploration program pursued by Royal Dutch Shell. Shell spent at least $ 7 billion trying to explore the Chukchi and part of the Beaufort. The company wrecked one of its drill ships into a grounding and managed to complete only one well to depth.

Gleason, in a separate case, delivered another decision Friday that blocks the Trump administration's effort to overturn an Obama-era environmental decision

Gleason struck down a land trade intended to clear the way for a road to be built though sensitive wetlands in Alaska's Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. The Obama administration, after a four-year environmental impact statement, determined that land trade and road would cause too much damage to the refuge to be justified. Trump's then Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke broke the law when he summarily reversed the Obama policy without addressing the facts found in the previous administration's study of the issue, Gleason ruled.


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