President Obama has announced a “permanent” drilling ban that will affect long swathes of the Arctic and the Atlantic Seaboard.
The ban protects 98% (115 million acres) of federally owned Arctic waters as well as 3.8 million acres along the Atlantic Coast. As announced Tuesday, Canada has also decided to ban offshore exploration and drilling in its Arctic waters.
Obama took advantage of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953 to unilaterally enact this unprecedented ban. Such a declaration is the first of its kind, and its fate will likely be decided by federal courts.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) says Obama is acting like a “king.” The ban is nothing more than a “vain attempt to salvage a personal legacy for himself,” he said.
Duncan believes there is a “strong likelihood” that Congress or the courts will block Obama’s declaration “just like his plans for executive amnesty, unconstitutional recess appointments, and illegally transferring terrorists [detained at Guantanamo Bay] to US soil.”
Among other achievements, President Obama wanted to be remembered for the Affordable Care Act and his environmental accomplishments. His healthcare overhaul failed miserably and will soon be addressed by Congress, but his environmental regulations will be harder to overcome.
Donald Trump has criticized such regulations for killing jobs and has promised to revive the mining and drilling industries. But the Obama Administration has been clever in its lawmaking, and the inventive strategies and obscure laws they have taken advantage of could prevent Trump from acting for years to come.
White House officials are confident that Trump will not be able to reverse the Arctic ban. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act gives a president the power to protect areas from drilling, but it does not giving his successor the authority to reopen them.
“We don’t see how this could be permanent,” argues Andrew Radford of the American Petroleum Institute (API).
“Our national security depends on our ability to produce oil and natural gas here in the United States,” notes API official Erik Milito. “This proposal would take us in the wrong direction just as we have become a world leader in production and refining of oil and natural gas and in reduction of carbon emissions. Blocking offshore exploration weakens our national security, destroys good-paying jobs, and could make energy less affordable for consumers.”
The Arctic bans seems to be part of a flurry of last-minute lawmaking as Obama prepares to leave the White House in January. Recent actions include:
• Denied permit for the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline
• Pass/fail rules finalized for the Every Student Succeeds Act
• National monument created in Maine
• 78 presidential pardons and 153 commutations
• Rule preventing states from withholding federal money from abortion providers