ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Federal District Court Judge Sharon Gleason’s ruling in Anchorage on Friday afternoon challenges Gov. Dunleavy’s motto that Alaska is “open for business,” by halting Pres. Donald Trump’s 5-year lease sale program to begin aggressive resource extraction in the state.
“This is bad for Alaska, and it’s bad for the country,” Gov. Dunleavy’s press secretary Matt Shuckerow told Channel 2 on Saturday. Shuckerow said the administration is working with the Department of Law to review the rulings over the weekend.
Judge Gleason’s rulings establish that the Trump Administration’s 2017 order rescinding Obama-era protections in order to expand opportunities for offshore drilling in Alaska lacked legal authority. Federal law only authorizes a president to withdraw lands from disposition, Gleason said, and not to revoke a prior withdrawal.
This decision jeopardizes Gov. Dunleavy’s own plans to open Alaska up for oil and gas leasing and drilling, which he expanded upon in an interview with Channel 2 Political Reporter Sean Maguire on Wednesday.
“There’s potential for a lot of investment to come to Alaska,” the governor said. “We’re one of the few states that has direct access to the Pacific Ocean. We have incredible amounts of oil still to be discovered, still to be developed and put in the pipeline.”
Gov. Dunleavy said his goal is to drive down energy costs for Alaskans by vamping up resource extraction in the state; Judge Gleason’s rulings may pose a threat to these plans.
Wilderness Society Arctic Program Director Lois Epstein said this development protects particularly sensitive areas of the state from aggressive extraction.
“The reason we’re concerned about the offshore is that we know it is a very difficult area for drilling – there are ice flows, there’s storms, there’s low-light levels,” Epstein said. “A significant spill would harm that area.”
Judge Gleason’s rulings would need a majority vote in the U.S. Senate if the president plans to overturn them.