President Barack Obama has made a move to effectively block any future attempts at oil drilling in the waters off the Arctic and Atlantic coasts of the U.S. CNBC reports that Obama has invoked a provision in a 1953 law governing offshore leases, and it’s a decision that can’t easily be undone by President-elect Trump when he takes office.
According to CNBC, the law allows a president to withdraw any currently unleased lands in the Outer Continental Shelf from future lease sales. And there’s no provision in the law that would let a future president repeal this decision, which means Trump’s hands could be tied when he takes over the reigns.
And that’s good because Trump has promised to open up more federal land to petroleum exploration and production in an effort to increase domestic oil reserves. But Obama may have put a bit of a crimp in his plans.
According to CNBC, Obama said on Tuesday he would set aside “the bulk of our Arctic water and certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean as indefinitely off limits to future oil and gas leasing, though the prospects for drilling in the affected areas in the near future were already questionable.”
The protected land includes most of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in the Arctic, as well as 31 canyon areas in the Atlantic. Obama’s move matches recent actions by Canada to put a 5-year moratorium on Arctic oil and gas drilling, one which will be reviewed every five years. The two countries are also cooperating to seek out sustainable shipping routes through connected Arctic waters.
The deal is certainly not fully done, as the executive order could be subject to court challenges and thus be delayed during much of Trump’s presidency as it grinds its way through the courts. A Congress controlled by Republicans could also try to make changes to the law.
Still, Obama is at least trying to push through some environmental protection during his last days in office. The messages are mixed, though, as Obama gave Shell the green light to drill in the Arctic just last year.