Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Obama Bans Oil, Gas Leases in Arctic, Atlantic ; Move Could Hamstring a Trump Reversal Action

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Obama Bans Oil, Gas Leases in Arctic, Atlantic ; Move Could Hamstring a Trump Reversal Action

Article excerpt

HONOLULU - President Barack Obama on Tuesday designated the bulk of U.S.-owned waters in the Arctic Ocean and certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean as indefinitely off limits to future oil and gas leasing. The move helps put some finishing touches on Obama's environmental legacy while also testing President-elect Donald Trump's promise to unleash the nation's untapped energy reserves.

The White House announced the actions in conjunction with the government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which also placed a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in its Arctic waters, subject to periodic review.

Obama is making use of an arcane provision in a 1953 law to ban offshore leases in the waters permanently. The statute says: "The president of the United States may, from time to time, withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf.

Environmental groups hope the ban, despite relying on executive powers, will be difficult for future presidents to reverse. The White House said it's confident the president's directive will withstand legal challenge and said the language of the statute provides no authority for subsequent presidents to "unwithdraw waters from future lease sales.

The Atlantic waters placed off limits to new oil and gas leasing are 31 canyons stretching off the coast of New England south to Virginia.

The administration cited environmental concerns to justify the moratorium. The president also issued a statement noting the minimal level of fuel production occurring in the Arctic. Obama said just 0.1 percent of offshore crude production came from the Arctic in 2015, and at current oil prices, significant production would not occur in future decades. …

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