Three recent major news stories out of Alaska underscore how determined the Trump Administration is to advance development projects that will destroy our nation’s public lands and waters.  The Administration’s rushed and overreaching efforts in Alaska are now getting the press attention and legal review that they deserve.

Most notably, the New York Times published a blockbuster story last week exposing the results of the only test well in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, drilled more than thirty years ago. A closely kept secret for decades, the journalists found several players with knowledge of the test well results who confirmed it was actually “worthless.” This story will have a long-term impact on the fight to protect the Refuge, calling into question years of promises and statements by Alaska officials who may have known about these results, including Department of Interior officials in the Trump Administration who have been pushing to open the Refuge to drilling. Read more here.

In a U.S. District Court in late March, the court ruled that the Trump Administration broke the law by approving the development of a road through the heart of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Conservation advocates oppose this road because of the dangerous precedent it would set for wildlife refuges across the nation. The court ruled that the Trump Administration violated administrative law when they arbitrarily reversed former Secretary Sally Jewell’s earlier, science-based decision to not allow the road. Read more in the Anchorage Daily News here

On the same day, a second District Court decision overruled the Trump Administration’s efforts to open up oil drilling off the coasts of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.  President Trump signed an executive order that tried to lift protections from 128 million acres of federal waters. However, the court found that presidents have the power to put protections in place, but only Congress can revoke the protections. Read more in the Washington Post here.

All three stories provide excellent examples of how President Trump and the Department of the Interior are engaged in a breathless effort to approve massive, landscape altering development projects as quickly as possible.

David Hayes, former Deputy Secretary at Interior under President Obama, authored an op-ed in The Hill about how this dynamic is playing out in the Arctic Refuge. He notes that in its rush to offer oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Trump Administration is ignoring environmental safeguards and wildlife regulations. Hayes writes:

Most notably, the New York Times published a blockbuster story this week exposing the results of the only test well in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, drilled more than thirty years ago. A closely kept secret for decades, the journalists found several players with knowledge of the test well results who confirmed it was actually “worthless.” This story will have a long-term impact on the fight to protect the Refuge, calling into question years of promises and statements by Alaska officials who may have known about these results, including Department of Interior officials in the Trump Administration who have been pushing to open the Refuge to drilling. Read more here.

In a U.S. District Court last Friday, the court ruled that the Trump Administration broke the law by approving the development a road through the heart of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Conservation advocates oppose this road because of the dangerous precedent it would set for wildlife refuges across the nation.  The court ruled that the Trump Administration violated administrative law when they arbitrarily reversed former Secretary Sally Jewell’s earlier, science-based decision to not to allow the road.  Read more in the Anchorage Daily News here

Also last Friday, a second District Court decision overruled the Trump Administration’s efforts to open up oil drilling off the coasts of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.  President Trump signed an executive order that tried to lift protections from 128 million acres of federal waters. However, the court found that presidents have the power to put protections in place, but only Congress can revoke the protections. Read more in the Washington Post here.

All three stories provide excellent examples of how President Trump and the Department of the Interior are engaged in a breathless effort to approve massive, landscape altering development projects as quickly as possible.

David Hayes, former Deputy Secretary at Interior under President Obama, authored an op-ed in The Hill about how this dynamic is playing out in the Arctic Refuge. He notes that in its rush to offer oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Trump Administration is ignoring environmental safeguards and wildlife regulations. Hayes writes:

In a thinly-veiled rush to auction off large blocks of the Arctic Refuge to the oil and gas industry before the next presidential election, however, Interior has made a political decision to issue leases first and address “on-the-ground” oil and gas development issues later. It does not want to miss the opportunity to privatize the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and turn it into a giant oil field while it can. Neither the tax law, nor the National Environmental Policy Act, allow this. 

If the Trump Administration continues to rush forward with its reckless process to offer leases in the Arctic Refuge, court challenges are a certainty. The decisions handed down in the past week give us hope that the judicial branch will continue to put a check on the Trump Administration’s race to develop wild, irreplaceable places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.