President Obama Blocks Oil Drilling in Arctic and Atlantic Oceans!

"I urge President Obama to take action to similarly protect the Pacific Coast". In doing so, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell cited the "unique and challenging Arctic environment and industry's declining interest in the area". No president has ever rescinded a previous president's permanent withdrawal of offshore areas from oil and gas development.

The move is a victory for environmentalists, and it portends a potential legal fight over whether the Obama administration is overstepping its bounds and whether President-elect Donald Trump has the right to undo the action after he takes office. Trump himself has made it clear that he wants to vastly expand the U.S.'s fossil fuel drilling and even reinvigorate the polluting coal industry. Major conservation groups had been pushing Obama in recent weeks to put the offshore areas off limits in perpetuity.

The provision has been used by several presidents in the past, including Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton. The White House said that area is close enough to existing drilling infrastructure that "the president deemed it prudent to leave that area for further study and further consideration". Or, alternatively, the GOP-controlled Congress could try to rewrite the law and put these areas back into play for oil and gas drilling (though that would have to get by a Senate filibuster first). Obama said just 0.1 percent of offshore crude production came from the Arctic in 2015, and at current oil prices, significant production would not occur in future decades.

The law under which Mr. Obama is acting enables a president to withdraw certain areas from leasing or drilling "for any public goal", such as to limit the impacts of climate change, according to a legal briefing by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Earth Justice.

Trump has promised to champion coal power, eliminate subsidies for green energy programs and broadly relax federal environmental regulations. His choice for Energy Secretary, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is has also expressed doubts about human-caused climate change and is a close ally of the oil industry.

Today's decision by President Obama to permanently protect areas of the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic Ocean from risky and environmentally harmful offshore oil and gas extraction comes at the urging of Rep. Huffman, who along with Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Democrat Frank Pallone led a bipartisan letter from 74 members of Congress this September asking President Obama to take action.

There is now no precedent for a president to hit rewind on bans against offshore drilling in the name of environmental protections. The decision is based on the authority granted the President by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953.


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