Obama prohibits drilling in Arctic, Atlantic oceans in late-night regulatory action

The White House announced Tuesday it would ban oil and natural gas drilling in sections of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, a gesture indicating President Obama’s intent to cement an environmental legacy as his term ends and protect against President-elect Donald Trump inevitable dismantling of the EPA.

Summoning the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, Mr. Obama withdrew currently unleased lands in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in the Arctic and 31 underwater canyons in the Atlantic Ocean off the northeast U.S. coast from future lease sales.

In a similar move, Canada announced its intent to ban offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean, but unlike Mr. Obama’s strategy, Canada’s policy will undergo a review every five years.  The ban imposed by Obama runs through 2022.

“These actions, and Canada’s parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on Earth,” the president said in a statement.

Although Mr. Obama’s action was greeted with jubilation by environmental groups which have pressed the president to follow through with stronger measures to protect land and waterways, oil and natural gas firms blasted the decision as counterproductive, hostile to job creation and economic growth and making energy self-sufficiency more difficult to achieve.

“Blocking offshore exploration would weaken our national security, destroy good-paying jobs, and could make energy less affordable for consumers.  Fortunately, there is no such thing as a permanent ban, and we look forward to working with the new administration on fulfilling the will of American voters on energy production,” said Erik Milito, upstream director for the American Petroleum Institute.

While some of Mr. Obama’s environmental regulations can be immediately undone by President-elect Trump, Tuesday’s actions will prove to be more complicated to dismantle.  Under the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, no provision exists to eliminate Mr. Obama’s undertaking and congressional action would likely be required.

Tuesday’s ban by the president, along with similar actions of late, includes 125 million acres of the U.S. Arctic Ocean and 3.8 million acres of the Atlantic Ocean under protection.  Mr. Obama left an additional 2.8 billion acres of the Beaufort Sea open for future leasing consideration and the Gulf of Mexico remains open for further offshore drilling under the White House’s 2017–2022 plan.


[The Hill] [Washington Post]