President Obama Places A Ban On Offshore Drilling In The Arctic And Parts Of The Atlantic

President Obama helps the environment on his way out

President Barack Obama looks at Bear Glacier in Seward, Alaska. Sept. 1, 2015 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Barack Obama looks at Bear Glacier in Seward, Alaska. Sept. 1, 2015 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

On Tuesday, in Barack Obama’s final tenure as President, he managed to pull off a great victory for those who care about protecting the environment. President Obama acted unilaterally to prevent oil and gas drilling in large parts of the Atlantic and, almost the entire, US controlled region of the Arctic ocean.

Under a 1953 law called the Continental Outer Shelf Lands Act, spearheaded by former President Harry S. Truman, it states that the oil and other minerals that rest beneath the continental shelf surrounding the United States (and extending all the way into international waters) belong to our government. The law also stated that it was the President who would be granted the power to totally control unleased sections of the continental shelf. It was through the use of this law that Obama was able to follow the precedent set by previous presidents, on both sides of the aisle, and ban oil drilling and mining in designated areas around the world.

The areas marked in yellow designate what was made off-limits by Obama’s use of the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

The areas marked in yellow designate what was made off-limits by Obama’s use of the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

The areas marked in green designate what was made off-limits by Obama’s use of the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

The areas marked in green designate what was made off-limits by Obama’s use of the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

However, because this power belongs solely to the President, many fear that Obama’s decision may be reversed when Donald Trump takes office. Trump has repeatedly said that he seeks to expand offshore oil and gas drilling, and a recent memo from his energy transition team specifically calls out the regions that were just made off-limits. But while it may be true that Trump will inherit the ability to restrict and authorize offshore drilling, energy corporations and environmental agencies feel differently about the need for a reversal of Obama’s decision.

In 2015, Shell stopped an expedition in arctic waters after the harsh conditions led to a gash in the side of the ship, and environmentalists exposed certain laws that would limit their ability to drill. Also, because of the low cost of shale at the moment, arctic drilling is not worth the reward for energy companies looking for a new source of oil.

According to a report done by Reuters, Erik Milito, upstream director of the American Petroleum Institute, has been quoted saying, “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.”

Lastly while this was a unilateral act by President Obama for the United States, it is important to note that this decision was reinforced by the Canadian government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trudeau has promised to also block oil and gas drilling along the Canadian coasts in an attempt to preserve the economies and ecosystems of the Arctic region.

Here is an excerpt from the White House’s official statement released on Tuesday:

Today, President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau are proud to launch actions ensuring a strong, sustainable and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem, with low-impact shipping, science based management of marine resources, and free from the future risks of offshore oil and gas activity. Together, these actions set the stage for deeper partnerships with other Arctic nations, including through the Arctic Council.

News // Barack Obama / Climate Change / Environment / Oceans