Obama Bans Drilling in Much of US Arctic
US President Barack Obama issued an order late December 20 designating the vast majority of US waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, in the Arctic, as "indefinitely off limits to offshore oil and gas leasing."
His announcement was made as part of a joint statement with Canadian premier Justin Trudeau.
Canada will designate all Arctic Canadian waters as indefinitely off limits to future offshore Arctic oil and gas licensing, to be reviewed every five years through a climate and marine science-based life-cycle assessment.
Obama’s order is based on a 63-year law, said commentators, and provides a headache for President-elect Donald Trump who takes office next month and who wants to remove restrictions on drilling.
This is how the White House said it has declared 115mn acres of the US Arctic off-limits to petroleum leases and drilling (Graphic credit: US White House)
The joint statement said the decision takes into account the respective obligations of the US and Canada under international law to protect and preserve the marine environment, and supports the objectives of the 1990 International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response, and Cooperation, the 2013 Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic, and the US-Canada Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan. With respect to areas of the Beaufort Sea where the US-Canada maritime boundary has not yet been agreed, latest arrangements are without prejudice to either side’s position.
The statement also says both countries may tighten the regulation of shipping in their Arctic waters -- something that may impact on oil and LNG trade.
Last year Shell stopped exploration in the Chukchi Sea around Alaska after spending billions of dollars, drilling dry or uneconomic wells, and after its drill-rig briefly went adrift causing fears of a potential safety and ecological nightmare in the Arctic.
CNN has also reported that US now is also declaring 31 subsea canyons off the Atlantic coast off-limits for drilling, citing "critical and irreplaceable ecological value."