The Obama Administration announced a ban on offshore drilling of oil and gas in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans on December 20 in an attempt to legitimise the President’s environmental legacy. The announcement of the ban came shortly after Canada’s decision to implement a similar ban, with a set of actions that are to be reviewed at intervals of five years.
Obama’s move was made with the help of a 63-year-old law that states that the President of the United States has the ability to permanently cease offshore drilling in certain regions. The ban will hinder Donald Trump’s proposed policy to increase US energy production, and Trump could face significant legal barriers if he attempts to reverse the order.
Offshore drilling will come to a halt in the US part of the Chukchi sea, along with large parts of the Beaufort Sea. The protected regions span 115 million acres and have been chosen due to their rich biodiversity and collapsing ecosystem. They are also natural habitats for several critically-endangered species, like the bowhead whale, polar bear and Pacific Walrus.
The move was criticised by the American Petroleum Institute. Erik Milito, the group’s Upstream director, was quoted saying, “The administration’s decision to remove key Arctic and Atlantic offshore areas from future leasing consideration ignores congressional intent, our national security, and vital, good-paying job opportunities for our shipyards, unions, and businesses of all types across the country.” While the ban is indefinite, it is not permanent, and may be overturned in the future.