US President Barack Obama on Tuesday went ahead with his predicted ban on offshore drilling in most of the US Arctic and along the Atlantic seaboard from Virginia north to Canada, drawing hostile reaction from energy industry players.
The ban, which President Obama intends to be permanent, utilized an obscure provision of a 1953 law, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
It will make almost all of the US Arctic waters off limits to drilling and about 4 million acres off the Atlantic coast, too. The Atlantic swathe covers significant areas of coral canyons.
With the Obama administration inside its final five weeks this move seems like an attempt to shore up its environmentalist legacy with the clock ticking towards the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.
Trump’s stump speeches often included climate change denial and promises to unshackle energy companies from perceived over-regulation. His cabinet appointments have included several energy sector bigwigs and apologists.
He is expected to try to roll back much of the Obama protections and the latest bans are likely to be taken to court.
A spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute (API) said: “We don’t see how this could be permanent” adding that the API hopes the Trump administration will reverse the bans.
And a spokesman for the Arctic Energy Centre, a coalition of pro-drilling interests, said it would mean “a bleak economic future for Alaska” while claiming “a significant majority of Native and Alaskan people support offshore energy development in the Arctic”.