Despite the best — and accelerating — efforts of President Trump and his Republican-led Senate to pack the nation’s federal courts with Federalist Society-approved extremist right-wing judges, the Trump administration has faced a nearly unbroken string of policy reversals in the federal courts for the president’s executive orders which have time and again proven to violate existing laws.
With everything from Trump’s immigration policies to his environmental regulation rollbacks being struck down by judges who see through his transparent attempts to circumvent Congress to implement decisions that the majority of Americans oppose, the administration’s track record in achieving its dictatorial and harmful aims just got even worse.
To the applause of environmental activists everywhere, U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason ruled yesterday that the Trump executive order revoking the Obama-era ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans was illegal.
Judge Gleason mandated that the Obama administration’s determination to withdraw exploration leases from approximately 120 million acres of the oceans “will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress,” striking a blow for the separation of powers envisioned by the Constitution.
The judge called Trump’s 2017 executive order revoking the environmental protections “unlawful, as it exceeded the president’s authority.” The law under which Obama issued the drilling bans during his second term in office — the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act — allows the president to choose to halt ocean floor leases but does not allow him to revoke any withdrawals of leases without the express approval of Congress, something that the impulsive president was too impatient to attempt even when his own party controlled both houses of Congress.
The suit to halt Trump’s executive order reinstating the drilling leases was brought by the environmental organization Earthjustice. Erik Grafe, the group’s lead attorney, said that Judge Gleason’s ruling demonstrates that “President Trump’s lawlessness is catching up with him.”
“President Trump’s lawlessness is catching up with him. The judge’s ruling today re-affirms that we are a nation of laws and shows that the president cannot just trample on the constitution at the expense of our oceans, wildlife, and climate.” @Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe
— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice) March 30, 2019
The decision was also praised by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) whom a spokesperson said: “will continue to do everything in his power to stop any drilling off of New Jersey’s precious coastline.”
“Governor Murphy has fought President Trump’s plan for offshore drilling since day one, calling it a disaster for New Jersey’s environment, economy, and coastal communities,” the spokesperson told The Washington Post.
Judge Gleason’s ruling is the third loss for the Trump administration’s disastrous environmental rollbacks this week, with the same judge prohibiting plans for a road to be built through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and another federal judge striking down plans for a gas drilling project in Colorado.
While we can thank the nation’s founders for designing a system of government that can hold the worst and most destructive impulses of the executive branch in check, the Trump administration’s attempts to circumvent any laws that get in the way of its agenda of greed and environmental degradation must not be underestimated, particularly as he continues to pack the federal courts with judges more pliant to his wishes.
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Original reporting by Juliet Eilperin at The Washington Post and by Arris Folley at The Hill.