President Barack Obama on Tuesday took unilateral action to make most U.S. Arctic waters “indefinitely off limits” to future oil and gas leasing — just weeks before Donald Trump’s administration takes over.
Obama invoked a provision in a nearly 70-year-old law pertaining to offshore leases, according to CNBC.
“Today, in partnership with our neighbors and allies in Canada, the United States is taking historic steps to build a strong Arctic economy, preserve a healthy Arctic ecosystem and protect our fragile Arctic waters, including designating the bulk of our Arctic water and certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean as indefinitely off limits to future oil and gas leasing,” the White House said in a statement.
The statement continued:
These actions, and Canada’s parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth. They reflect the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region’s harsh conditions is limited. By contrast, it would take decades to fully develop the production infrastructure necessary for any large-scale oil and gas leasing production in the region – at a time when we need to continue to move decisively away from fossil fuels.
Senior administration officials suggested that even future presidents, including President-elect Trump, will not have the authority to reverse Obama’s indefinite ban on oil and gas leases in the Arctic, CBS News’ Mark Knoller reported.
Senior Admin Officials believe future presidents don’t have the authority to reverse Pres Obama's action on oil & gas leases in the Arctic.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) December 20, 2016
Because Obama exercised his authority under the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act rather than issuing an executive order, Trump will likely have a difficult time overturning the action.
On the campaign trial, Trump promised as president to open additional federal land for domestic oil and gas production.