As Trump’s incoming administration makes its complete disinterest in protecting the environment clearer each day, it seems President Obama is doing all he can to enshrine whatever green policies he can during his final days in office. The current administration recently announced a ban on new oil and gas drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans for the next five years — long enough to outlast Trump’s first (and hopefully last) presidential term.
The Interior Department’s finalized oil and gas leasing plan for 2017-2022 was originally supposed to open up beaches from Virginia to North Carolina to new drilling, as well as the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean. However, after massive opposition from conservationists and businesses in the affected areas, the administration has cancelled most of the proposed leases. Unfortunately, offshore drilling is still allowed to move forward in 10 lease areas in the Gulf of Mexico, but this decision is far better than what was initially proposed.
Since last spring, environmental groups have been gathering signatures from everyday American opposed to offshore drilling, presenting more than 2 million signatures to the President. In addition, more than 1,100 businesses along the Atlantic Ocean joined together to voice their opposition, including hundreds in heavily Republican states.
“This move locks the Gulf into another five years of corporate giveaways – with decades more of climate pollution, offshore oil spills, devastation to fisheries, and health impacts to local communities. A true transition from fossil fuels doesn’t allow for energy sacrifice zones, especially when we know the climate can’t handle further fossil fuel development. Along with the Arctic and the Atlantic, we need permanent protection for all our coasts to have a fighting chance at stabilizing the climate,” said Lindsey Allen, Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network
While this new decision obviously puts some roadblocks in Donald Trump’s plans to expand US oil and gas production, it’s important not to grow complacent. It would take some years to undo the protections Obama has just granted the Arctic and Atlantic, but it is possible. In fact, prominent Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski has been quick to condemn the decision, vowing to overturn it. This is a major victory for environmentalists, but in many ways, it’s only the beginning.