President Barack Obama has 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 on Tuesday 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.
“In 2015, just 0.1 percent of U.S. federal offshore crude production came from the Arctic and Department of Interior analysis shows that, at current oil prices, significant production in the Arctic will not occur,” the White House said in a statement.
“We must continue to focus on economic empowerment for Arctic communities beyond this one sector. My Administration has proposed and directed unprecedented federal investments in the region, but more must be done – by the federal government, the private sector and philanthropy – to enhance infrastructure and our collective security, such as the acquisition of additional icebreaking capacity, and to lay the groundwork for economic growth in the industries of the future,” the White House statement read.
Environmental groups hope the ban, despite relying on executive powers, will be difficult for future presidents to reverse.
The White House says Obama has used a provision in a 1953 law to ban offshore leases in the waters permanently.
The Atlantic waters placed off limits are 31 canyons stretching off the coast of New England south to Virginia.
Canada is also placing a moratorium on new leasing in its Arctic waters.