The action removes the US from the hunt for energy resources.
A snowman peeks into the Oval Office as President Barack Obama signs end-of-the-year bills. White House Photo: Peter Souza
President Barack Obama has declared 3.8 million acres in the north and mid-Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast and a staggering 115 million acres in the US Arctic Ocean off limits to oil and gas drilling.
The president’s Arctic withdrawal encompasses the entire US area of the Chukchi Sea and significant portions of the US Beaufort Sea.
The move coincides and is being made in tandem with a similar action by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Canadian waters.
“Risks associated with oil and gas activity in the remote, harsh, and undeveloped Arctic are not worth taking when the nation has ample energy sources near existing infrastructure,” says Abigail Ross Hopper, the director of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. “Oil spill response and clean-up raises unique challenges in the Arctic and a spill could have substantial impacts on the region, particularly given the ecosystem fragility and limited available resources to respond to a spill.”
The withdrawal does not affect existing leases in these federal offshore waters and would not affect a nearshore area of the Beaufort Sea, totaling about 2.8 million acres, that has high oil and gas potential and is adjacent to existing state oil and gas activity and infrastructure.
While there are significant concerns about oil and gas activity occurring in this area, it will be subject to additional evaluation and study to determine if new leasing could be appropriate at some point in the future.
The administration says incoming president-elect Donald Trump cannot rescind the decision. Whether Congress can remains unclear.
More to follow...