On Tuesday, President Obama bans oil drilling in federal waters in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans by invoking the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, a provision that gives the president wide latitude to block future oil and gas production. Obama’s action helps to insure his legacy as a conservationist as well as a response to environmental activists that have called for locking in protections before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
The action is certain to draw legal challenges from the fossil fuel industry and Trump may attempt to turn back Obama’s order once he assumes office, however the statute doesn’t include provisions for a reversal and if that action is pursued it may take years to work its way through the court system. The Republican-led Congress could also attempt to undo the provision legislatively. However, although past Presidents have modified the actions of their predecessors they have never rescinded those actions completely and may not be able to do so.
Blocks the Sale of New Oil and Gas Leases
Obama’s move would block the sale of new oil and gas leases in portions of the US Atlantic and the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska although they will not affect existing leases.
The expectation is that the US move will be paired by similar Canadian action, which follows from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pledge in March to collaborate on managing the Arctic and its resources.
“The Trump administration has the potential to do serious damage to our climate — but in the last few months of his presidency, President Obama can take concrete steps to secure his environmental legacy,” NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer said in a recent letter.
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