This past Tuesday, President Obama issued an executive order permanently banning offshore oil and gas drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.
President Obama cited his ability to pass these environmental protections from the sparingly used Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953. The law was implemented to save marine life and coral reefs, and allows the executive orders banning offshore drilling to last indefinitely. Nowhere in the law does it enable those actions to be undone by future administrations.
The ban is set to safeguard 115 million acres of U.S. government owned portions of the Arctic Ocean as well as 3.8 million acres of the Atlantic Ocean. Alongside Obama’s actions, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau also passed an indefinite block on offshore drilling in all Arctic Canadian waters.
This will offer much needed protections in preventing oil spills, such as the 2010 BP-operated Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, from occurring in the future. The impacts of the spill were devastating and long lasting, both economically and environmentally.
Environmental activists are celebrating this decision as a major win and are hopeful that Donald Trump will not be able to counter the order without facing legal consequences. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, declared, “We are confident that this is an announcement that will stick. We have both the law and public opinion on our side.”
The ban comes at a critical time as the future administration has vowed to reverse many of Obama’s environmental protection initiatives. Donald Trump has made statements promising to tap into unused gas and oil reserves regardless of the numerous scientifically-proven consequences, which include increases in toxic chemicals disrupting clean air and water, risks of oil spills and dangerous methane emissions. Trump is known for dismissing climate change as a hoax invented by the Chinese, ignoring the vast majority of scientific research clearly stating otherwise.
The offshore drilling ban is one of the many executive orders being set by the Obama Administration in their last days. Title X protections were finalized last week, blocking states from cutting off federal funding to family planning providers that offer abortion services, namely Planned Parenthood. The Obama Administration is rushing to create as many firewalls as possible to protect current policies and rules from the incoming administration.
Media Resources: The New York Times 12/20/16, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Quartz 12/21/16, Encyclopedia Britannica 5/9/16, International Business Times 4/16/15, National Wildlife Federation 2015, The Wilderness Society, The Feminist Majority Foundation 12/15/16, POLITICO 11/27/16
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