The radical environmental lobby recently got a shot in the arm by means of a judge’s ruling.
Last Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason, an Obama appointee, slapped down President Trump’s move to open up the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic, north of the Bering Strait, as well as other places, in the Atlantic, for oil and gas drilling.
CNBC wrote, “The judge ruled that Trump exceeded his authority when he reversed Obama-era restrictions on offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.”
Well, not to mince words or anything, but it sounds like CNBC wrote this to imply to its readers that these Obama-era restrictions were actual laws passed by Congress.
If there’s any doubt, they continued, writing, “Judge Sharon Gleason in a decision late Friday threw out Trump’s executive order that overturned the bans that comprised a key part of Obama’s environmental legacy.”
From this the reader can only assume that an executive order cannot overturn legally passed laws banning such drilling. And they’d be right. But that’s not what happened.
In 2015 and 2016, Obama released two executive orders, banning the drilling in question.
“In 2015, Obama halted exploration in coastal areas of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and the Hanna Shoal, an important area for walrus. In late 2016, he withdrew most other potential Arctic Ocean lease areas – about 98 percent of the Arctic outer continental shelf.”
And Judge Gleason, who apparently also reads minds, added, “The wording of President Obama’s 2015 and 2016 withdrawals indicates that he intended them to extend indefinitely, and therefore be revocable only by an act of Congress.”
Time after time CNBC had the opportunity to elucidate, but did not. The reporter described the actions by Obama as “Obama-era restrictions” and “withdrawals,” when they were in fact just executive orders, the same as Trump’s.
The first was Executive Order 13689, signed by Obama Jan. 21, 2015. The second, written to build on and enhance the 2015 order was Executive Order 13754, signed by Obama Dec. 9, 2016, a full month after Trump was elected.
As an aside, let me add that there should be a law against eleventh-hour, post-election executive orders – whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat trying to ram them through before exiting. It should not be allowed, any more than lame-duck legislation being passed with the assistance of members of Congress and senators who lost re-election.
In December 2016, the New York Times wrote: “Mr. Obama invoked an obscure provision of a 1953 law, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which he said gives him the authority to act unilaterally. While some presidents have used that law to temporarily protect smaller portions of federal waters, Mr. Obama’s declaration of a permanent drilling ban on portions of the ocean floor from Virginia to Maine and along much of Alaska’s coast is breaking new ground. The declaration’s fate will almost certainly be decided by the federal courts.”
Well whoop-de-doo for Judge Gleason, CNBC and the New York Times. It’s wholly immaterial what Obama’s “intentions” were or were not. Whatever he “intended” he did so by means of an executive order.
It seems out of the three – Obama, Trump and Gleason – Trump is the only one who HASN’T overstepped his authority and therefore should disregard the judge’s order.
But of course some would say that this would surely cause a constitutional crisis. But they’d be wrong. The only crisis is the decision of this judge who is clearly out of line.
What the judge, CNBC and the Times neglected to mention is that presidential executive orders, whatever their intention, once issued, remain in force until they are canceled, revoked, adjudicated unlawful, or expire on their own terms. At any time, a sitting president may revoke, modify, or make exceptions from any executive order, regardless if the order was made by the current president or a predecessor.
In fact, should he wish, President Trump has the authority to revoke any and all executive orders, from the first to the last, without reason or explanation.
His order could simply have read, “By the authority vested in me as president by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby revoke, in their entirety, Executive Orders 13689 and 13754.”
As this is the right of every sitting president, a revocation cannot be challenged by some district court flunky judge, or any other.
Drop the mic and say good night.