Citing Courtroom Setback, Bernhardt Says Offshore Drilling Plan Now On Hold

The delay comes after a legal victory by NRDC and our partners, which reinstated Obama-era protections for hundreds of millions of acres of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

An oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico

Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s plan to ramp up offshore oil and gas leasing has been sidelined indefinitely, according to a Wall Street Journal interview with the agency’s head, Secretary David Bernhardt. The delay, according to the article, is a result of a federal court ruling in April, which reinstated an Obama-era ban on offshore drilling that protects nearly 128 million acres in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans combined.

“President Trump’s wildly unpopular and risky offshore drilling plan needs to be more than sidelined,” says Alexandra Adams, legislative director for NRDC’s Nature program. “It should be deep-sixed permanently.”

The lawsuit, brought by NRDC and Earthjustice on behalf of a coalition of indigenous and environmental groups, was in response to President Trump’s 2017 executive order that illegally removed protections for large swaths the Arctic and Atlantic—exposing oceans, marine life, and coastal communities to the inherent threat of oil spills and seismic blasting, as well as the the threat of rising carbon emissions, all for the benefit of polluting fossil fuel companies.

“No single lawsuit has ever before protected so many acres of our public lands and waters against extractive damage—including the fragile, wildlife-rich, and ethereally beautiful coastline of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” says Niel Lawrence, Alaska director and senior attorney in NRDC’s Nature program.

The delay marks a significant win for communities, conservationists, and climate advocates, who were expecting the Interior Department to propose a revised five-year oil and gas leasing plan in the near future that dramatically expanded offshore drilling. But, despite this reprieve, there is no sign that Trump and his administration have given up on their quest to open up our oceans to polluters for oil and gas profits. NRDC and our allies will continue to fight for our oceans and our climate.

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