Energy

Trump Will Review Obama’s Locking Up Of Huge Swaths Of Ocean

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

President Donald Trump will order the Department of Commerce to review marine national monuments created or expanded by the Obama administration.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced the marine monuments review Thursday evening while briefing reporters on an executive order to lift an Obama-era ban on drilling in most of the Arctic seas. He will also review the current five-year offshore drilling plan.

“We are reversing those and putting those into review,” Zinke told reporters Thursday evening.

The move is significant and comes after fisherman challenged the legality of a 3.1 million acre marine national monument the Obama administration created off New England’s coast.

“They are a clear violation of the Antiquities Act, which expressly limits monument designations to ‘land owned or controlled by the Federal government,'” Jonathan Wood, an attorney representing fisherman, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Former President Barack Obama created four marine national monuments and expanded another, putting nearly 150 million acres of U.S. waters under stricter protection. The move angered fishing communities, especially in New England.

“A hundred miles or more from the nation’s coast, isn’t federal land by any measure,” said Wood, who works for the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF).

The Secretary of Commerce will have 145 days to review marine national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act. During the review, the department won’t be allowed to create new monuments or expand existing ones.

Zinke is also conducting a review of national monuments. Obama created several land-based national monuments that faced intense local opposition. Republicans have asked Trump to undo these designations.

Environmentalists opposed Trump’s executive order to review land-based national monuments and will likely challenge the president’s new order to review marine national monuments.

“We will continue to speak out against offshore drilling and to protect our marine monuments, from coast to coast,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement. “And this will only make our call louder on Saturday, as thousands upon thousands take to the streets of Washington D.C. to march against Trump and his agenda.”

But marine monuments aren’t on very strong legal footing, according to Wood. Fishing companies argue the Antiquities Act only applies to federally-controlled lands, not waters.

Wood also said the president unilaterally designates national monuments, meaning local voices can be drowned out and livelihoods ruined.

PLF is challenging the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in the North Atlantic. Obama created the 3.1 million acre marine monument in 2016, putting $50 million in fisheries off-limits to communities that rely on the fishing industry.

“These huge monuments are also harmful because they undermine sustainable fishing,” Wood said. “When a monument is declared, commercial fishermen are locked out of the waters, forcing them to go elsewhere and put more pressure on fish stocks in other areas.”

“And over the last few years, these fishermen have made costly sacrifices to ensure that their fishery would be sustainable,” Wood said. “If President Trump undoes this illegal and ill-advised monument, they can finally get back to work.”

Borden noted oil tankers will still be able to traverse the Atlantic monument and telecommunications companies would still be able to lay cable. However, boats can no longer trawl for crustaceans and fishermen will have to leave the area within seven years.

Obama also expanded two monuments in the Pacific Ocean, including one off the Hawaiian coast originally designated by President George W. Bush in 2006. Obama vastly expanded the Papahanaumokuakea monument to 89.6 million acres in 2016.

Obama also expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to 55.6 million acres in 2014. That monument was originally created by Bush in 2009, but Obama expanded it sixfold, putting more areas off-limits to all commercial fishing and extraction.

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