Obama: Arc­tic, At­lantic o≠ lim­its

Pres­i­dent uses 1953 law to ban off­shore leases in the wa­ters per­ma­nently.

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Kevin Freking

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 that “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 will be dif­fi­cult for fu­ture pres­i­dents to re­verse. The White House said it’s con­fi­dent the pres­i­dent’s or­der will with­stand le­gal chal­lenge and said the lan­guage of the statute pro­vides no author­ity for sub­se­quent pres­i­dents to undo per­ma­nent with­drawals.

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, al­though some had hoped for a more ex­ten­sive ban that would have ex­tended far­ther south.

Ex­ist­ing leases aren’t af­fected by the pres­i­dent’s ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion cited en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns in both re­gions to jus­tify the mora­to­rium. Obama also cited the im­por­tance of the Chukchi and Beau­fort seas in pro­vid­ing sub­sis­tence for na­tive Alaskans and the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the ecosys­tem to an oil spill to jus­tify his di­rec­tive.

Obama also noted the 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.

“That’s why, look­ing for­ward, we must con­tinue to fo­cus on eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment for Arc­tic com­mu­ni­ties be­yond this one sec­tor,” Obama said.

Still, in­dus­try of­fi­cials ob­jected to Obama’s mem­o­ran­dum, call­ing it “last-minute po­lit­i­cal rhetoric.”

“In­stead of build­ing on our na­tion’s po­si­tion as a global en­ergy leader, to­day’s uni­lat­eral man­date could put Amer­ica back on a path of en­ergy de­pen­dence for decades to come,” said Dan Naatz of the In­de­pen­dent Pe­tro­leum As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica.

And Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an in­de­pen­dent, said Obama’s move marginal­ized lo­cal voices. He said no one is more in­vested than Alaskans in mak­ing sure Arc­tic habi­tats are pro­tected.

“To lock it up against any fur­ther ex­plo­ration or de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­ity is akin to say­ing that the voices of ac­tivists who live in Lower 48 cities have a greater stake than those to whom the Arc­tic is our front yard and our back yard,” he said.

In is­su­ing a per­ma­nent ban, Obama ap­pears to be try­ing to tie the hands of his suc­ces­sor. Trump has vowed a do­mes­tic en­ergy revo­lu­tion and is fill­ing his Cabi­net with nom­i­nees deeply op­posed to Obama’s en­vi­ron­men­tal and cli­mate change ac­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.