A recent Trump administration executive order supposedly reverses permanent protections for the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. Pictured above is sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. (Photo Credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen Flickr)

We’ve Never Sued Before, But Now We’ll See Donald Trump in Court

By Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters

You could be forgiven for not thinking much about seeing the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) at the front of a list of conservation and Alaska Native groups filing a legal challenge against the Trump administration’s decision that purportedly reverses permanent protections for the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, protections from risky offshore oil drilling that President Obama put in place. After all, what’s so noteworthy about another environmental organization (or any group that cares about people for that matter) taking the Trump administration to court these days?

Here’s what’s so significant: never in LCV’s history have we taken this step.

For nearly 50 years, LCV has been primarily known for holding elected officials accountable with tools like our National Environmental Scorecard — the environmental community’s gold standard for evaluating the environmental records of members of Congress — and our aggressive electoral work to elect environmental champions on both sides of the aisle and defeat polluter allies through hard-edged efforts like our signature Dirty Dozen program.

We’ve fought hard, working with and against administrations and Congresses controlled by both parties over the years. And during the Obama administration, we saw some of the greatest progress on climate action and environmental protection ever.

Protesters call for an end to offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans

The permanent protections President Obama established for the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, as just one example, were won with years of research, lobbying and organizing. Offshore drilling and the associated threat of devastating oil spills puts coastal economies and ways of life at risk while worsening the consequences of climate change. The fact is, we must make smarter energy choices by further investing in clean energy — we can leave our kids a planet not damaged beyond repair, instead of doubling down on dirty and dangerous offshore drilling.

That is why, after listening to voices — along both coasts and across the country — who are concerned about offshore drilling, President Obama responded by permanently protecting virtually the entire Arctic Ocean and sensitive parts of the Atlantic Ocean from Big Oil.

Now, President Trump is trying to erase all the climate and environmental progress we’ve made. On offshore drilling, last Friday he signed an executive order directing the Interior Department to consider exposing all of our coasts to drill rigs while, at the same time, weakening or eliminating drilling safety standards. Buried in Trump’s document is a section purporting to rescind the permanent protections for the Arctic and Atlantic, despite the fact that no provision in the law authorizes a president to revoke those protections.

Protesters stand together against offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans

That’s why, for the first time in 48 years, LCV is joining our conservation colleagues and Alaska native groups in a legal challenge to Trump’s executive order. We aren’t about to go down without a fight, and by joining this litigation, we are signaling to Congress our resolute and growing commitment to defending the Arctic and Atlantic permanent protections and halting the expansion of risky offshore drilling.

To be clear, we’re not reinventing ourselves as a legal outfit. Our friends at NRDC and Earthjustice, who are representing us and other plaintiffs in this litigation, have decades of experience making sure that our hard-won environmental laws are defended and properly enforced through the courts for the benefit of communities’ health and safety, and they will continue to lead those legal fights.

But in a country where too much of our government is controlled by forces hostile to conservation and environmental safeguards, we simply cannot afford to leave any tool in the toolbox.

To be sure, we will continue to hold Congress accountable and remain heavily involved in elections at the federal and state level — indeed the states are where we expect to make the most progress in the coming years. We will continue to double down on our commitment to racial justice and equity because we need a democracy that works and protects all of us. But for this executive order from this president, we’ve added one more way for LCV and our two million members to speak out for the clean air, clean water, and special places we all deserve.

So we will continue to see you at the ballot box, in the states and the streets, and in the halls of Congress.

But now Mr. Trump, we will see you in court.