President Obama yesterday indefinitely blocked offshore drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic in a move that opponents say could increase energy costs for businesses.
In another effort to cement his environmental legacy before President-elect Donald Trump takes office next month, Obama invoked an obscure provision of a 1953 law, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, to block future drilling from Virginia to Maine on the Atlantic and along much of Alaska’s coast. The move will most likely be challenged in court.
In a joint statement with Canada, the White House said the US “is designating the vast majority of US waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas as indefinitely off limits to offshore oil and gas leasing, and Canada will designate all Arctic Canadian waters as indefinitely off limits to future offshore Arctic oil and gas licensing, to be reviewed every five years through a climate and marine science-based life-cycle assessment.”
The US and Canada will also identify sustainable shipping lanes in the Arctic waters, which may include “traffic separation schemes, recommended routes, Areas To Be Avoided, or other instruments such as fairways where no structures may be erected,” the statement said.
While environmentalists praised the ban on future offshore oil drilling, the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the oil and gas industry, said the decision “ignores congressional intent, our national security, and vital, good-paying job opportunities for our shipyards, unions, and businesses of all types across the country.”
In a statement, API upstream director Erik Milito called on the Trump administration to reverse the decision.
“We are hopeful the incoming administration will reverse this decision as the nation continues to need a robust strategy for developing offshore and onshore energy,” Milito said. “The US offshore industry has a long history of safe operations that have advanced the energy security of our nation and contributed significantly to our nation’s economy.”