Trump administration sued over offshore drilling

A coalition of environmental groups yesterday sued the Trump administration over its efforts to expand offshore drilling, arguing the move violated the president's legal authority, threatened wildlife and could end up hitting the fishing and tourism industries.

The lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in Alaska, comes within days of the signing of an executive order aimed at clearing the decks for offshore  drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

The order will also allow assessment of whether energy exploration could take place in marine sanctuaries in the Pacific and Atlantic.

Under the policy, acres of federal waters could be opened up for oil and gas leasing. The order comes only months after president Barack Obama withdrew the areas from possible development.

Trump signed the order on Friday emphasising that  the US had abundant offshore oil and gas reserves and made clear his intention to tap them if possible. ''We're opening it up,'' he said.

According to the lawsuit, however, Trump's executive order exceeded his constitutional and statutory authority. The lawsuited noted that Obama used his authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Acts to permanently end drilling in much of the Arctic and key parts of the Atlantic.

It further stated that no president had ever undone or reversed such a decision and that the law ''does not authorize the president to reopen withdrawn areas.''

The Presidential Executive Order (Section 1), dated 28 April stated, ''America must put the energy needs of American families and businesses first and continue implementing a plan that ensures energy security and economic vitality for decades to come. 

The energy and minerals produced from lands and waters under Federal management are important to a vibrant economy and to our national security.  Increased domestic energy production on Federal lands and waters strengthens the Nation's security and reduces reliance on imported energy.''