On Tuesday, President Obama, determined to pursue his environmental agenda until the bitter end, issued a proclamation making U.S.-owned waters in the Arctic Ocean and certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean "indefinitely" off-limits for future oil and gas leases.
The White House released a statement:
Today, in partnership with our neighbors and allies in Canada, the United States is taking historic steps to build a strong Arctic economy, preserve a healthy Arctic ecosystem and protect our fragile Arctic waters, including designating the bulk of our Arctic water and certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean as indefinitely off limits to future oil and gas leasing.
Obama acted jointly with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose government issued a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in its Arctic waters.
31 canyons stretching off the coast of New England south to Virginia are now off-limits; 98 percent of federally owned Arctic waters, or about 115 million acres, would be off-limits. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “The sum of the mean estimates for each province indicates that 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids may remain to be found in the Arctic, of which approximately 84 percent is expected to occur in offshore areas.”
Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) Senior Vice President Dan Naatz was furious, stating, IPAA was “extremely disappointed in President Obama’s eleventh hour decision to shut down economic development and lock away America’s true energy potential for communities that need it most."
Earlier this year, the administration removed potential Atlantic lease sales from its blueprint for offshore drilling. But that ban only applies to a five-year period starting in 2017, and could be more easily reversed by Trump in his own five-year blueprint.
Patrick Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at the University of Vermont told The New York Times, “It’s never been done before. There is no case law on this. It’s uncharted waters.”
The Washington Post reported that White House officials said “the withdrawals under Section 12-A of the 1953 act used by presidents dating to Dwight Eisenhower cannot be undone by an incoming president. It is not clear if a Republican-controlled Congress can rescind Obama’s action.”
Erik Milito, a policy director at the American Petroleum Institute, told The Associated Press, "There's no such thing as a permanent ban.