President Obama Bans Atlantic and Arctic Drilling

Peter Shelley | @peashell47

In another major victory for the environment and ocean conservation before President-elect Trump takes office, President Obama has banned offshore oil and gas drilling in large expanses of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. To do so, the President used the authority granted to him by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953, which states: “The President of the United States may, from time to time, withdraw from disposition any unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf.”

Protecting Deep-sea Treasures

The areas that President Obama withdrew from future oil and gas drilling include parts of the Arctic’s Chucki and Beaufort Seas and a stretch of deep-sea canyons spanning the outer continental shelf from Massachusetts to Virginia. We applaud President Obama for his landmark action to prevent drilling in these vital areas.

The Atlantic canyons in particular are biological hotspots. Their corals are thousands of years old and they are home to myriad species, some that scientists have just begun to find and explore. They are not only crucial refuges for endangered marine mammals that are sensitive to the thunderous noise of seismic activity associated with offshore drilling, but are also ecological fountains on which the Atlantic coast’s fishing economy depends. Protecting these canyons and coral areas from oil and gas drilling will allow them to thrive, creating benefits throughout the Northeast’s ocean and our region’s economy.

The President’s action is not just politically timely, however. It comes at a time when New England’s ocean environment faces rapidly changing conditions. The ocean and ocean wildlife off New England are already being assaulted by the effects of excessive carbon fuel emissions. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans, placing undue stress on the region’s species and habitats. The idea of further assaulting these waters to produce more climate-damaging fossil fuels, while putting an increasingly healthy fishing economy at risk, is lunacy.

We are Here to Defend Our Ocean

President Obama’s action to withdraw the Atlantic canyons from future drilling is a legitimate and compelling exercise of the authority Congress granted Presidents under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. This law has been used in a bipartisan manner since Eisenhower, and such action is neither reviewable under the Congressional Review Act nor reversible by a Trump executive order.

President-elect Trump has no mandate from the American people to risk our nation’s wildlife, fisheries, and hardworking communities that depend on a healthy ocean to produce more climate-disrupting oil or gas from the ocean. If Congress reverses President Obama’s action, the only beneficiaries will be the already grotesquely profitable fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil.

Congress and the corporate fossil fuel conglomerate have been fighting President Obama since his inauguration over his actions to protect public health and the environment by reducing the dangerous impacts of climate change. They won’t stop now that he is out of office, especially given President-elect Trump’s proposed Cabinet of fossil fuel cronies.

But CLF won’t stop either. CLF and New England fishermen have been successfully fought oil and gas drilling off in New England waters for 40 years. We have no plans to change that record now. Future generations depend on our success beating back this destructive corporate greed, and we will fight to protect New England’s ocean.

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