On Tuesday, President Obama boldly outlawed offshore oil and gas drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic, and he’s calling it a “permanent” ban for a reason. Much has been made of how his legacy has been affected by the sheer fact that Donald Trump won the election. Yet Obama’s doing everything he can to shore up lasting effects before leaving office. We’ve seen this through his continuing acts of clemency, and Obama’s dead set on leaving an environmental legacy as well.
As such, drilling will be prohibited in large swaths of the relevant oceans (98% of federally owned areas of the Arctic and about 3.8 million acres off the Atlantic coast), and Obama tied a few extra knots to make sure that Trump — who adores fossil fuels — can’t easily undo the ban, if at all. The New York Times explains the nature of this legal maneuver:
Mr. Obama invoked an obscure provision of a 1953 law, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which he said gives him the authority to act unilaterally. While some presidents have used that law to temporarily protect smaller portions of federal waters, Mr. Obama’s declaration of a permanent drilling ban from Virginia to Maine on the Atlantic and along much of Alaska’s coast is breaking new ground. The declaration’s fate will almost certainly be decided by the federal courts.
“It’s never been done before,” said Patrick Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at the University of Vermont. “There is no case law on this. It’s uncharted waters.”
Obama’s move seizes upon his executive power, rather than waiting around for the excruciatingly slow Congress to make a move. In doing so, he cited the “sensitive and unique ecosystem” of the Arctic along with the risks associated with climate change and oil spills. There’s a good chance that Donald Trump will end up overruling the pipeline halt at Standing Rock, but Tuesday’s drilling ban will be a lot tougher to undo.
(Via New York Times)