Appeals Court Affirms Biden Reversal of Trump Rollback of Ocean Drilling Ban

Photo: Wiki CC

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld a previous district court decision that then-President Donald Trump had overstepped his authority when he issued an executive order rolling back Obama-era bans on offshore drilling. President Biden reversed the rollback, and now, with the affirmation of the courts, environmentalist groups are celebrating the win.

Why This Matters: After years of attacks on public lands by the Trump administration, the nation is behind schedule on meeting its climate goals. President Biden has pledged to protect 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, but to do so, he will have to reverse many Trump-era policies on drilling, logging, and other development. But some lawmakers say protecting these lands requires more than executive orders and reversals, urging the President to push protections through Congress. But it takes time for a bill to become a law, and we’re already racing against the clock to meet our emissions goals.

Party in the Arctic

Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands, the Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society were plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Trump administration’s rollback on offshore drilling. “We welcome today’s decision and its confirmation of President Obama’s legacy of ocean and climate protection,” EarthJustice said in a statement. “As the Biden administration considers its next steps, it should build on these foundations, end fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters, and embrace a clean energy future that does not come at the expense of wildlife and our natural heritage.”  Offshore drilling in new areas was not popular in most coastal states, even those with Republican governors like Ron DeSantis in Florida, which has always seen drilling as a threat to its tourism industry.  Indeed, with the election on the line, even President Trump reversed his policy in some places like Georgia and Florida.  

The organizations are urging the Biden administration to take further action to protect the Arctic, including the Arctic Refuge and the Western Arctic, where the Trump administration made several hail-Mary attempts to open the land to oil development. The new administration is already showing it’s running, not walking Trump’s rollback back. Trump’s Department of the Interior rather suspiciously determined that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve (ANWR) would not harm polar bear populations. The Biden administration, on the other hand, blocked drilling in the ANWR on day one. The Biden administration is also already fulfilling promises to work with Indigenous communities on protected land matters, sending Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to Bears Ears National Monument to meet with both state and Indigenous leaders.

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