Eyeing Trump, Obama takes action to ban Arctic drilling

Eyeing Trump, Obama takes action to ban Arctic drilling

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington in this Dec. 16, 2016, file photo. — AP

WASHINGTON — The White House blocked new leases for oil and gas drilling in sections of the Arctic and Atlantic on Tuesday, a high-stakes bid to forestall exploration and tie Donald Trump’s hands.

With Trump is bringing a strident pro-oil stance to the White House, the outgoing administration has launched a rearguard action.

President Barack Obama announced he was placing swaths of the Arctic and Atlantic “indefinitely off limits to future oil and gas leasing.”

The protection covers an area of the Arctic roughly the size of Spain or Thailand and 31 sea canyons in the Atlantic.

A senior administration official said that there was a “strong legal basis” for the move, and suggested Trump could not revoke the decision without an act of Congress.

The action, based on a law from the 1950s, was taken in tandem with the Canadian government and introduces an additional headache should Trump try to row it back.

Obama said in a statement that the measures would “protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem.”

He also warned that the risk of oil spills “are significant,” and the ability “to clean up from a spill in the region’s harsh conditions is limited.”

The Hawaii-born president’s second year in office was dominated by the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which poured millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The spill could not be stopped for 87 days, devastating wildlife and fishing-dependent communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry lobby group, warned that Obama’s decision “blocking offshore exploration would weaken our national security, destroy good-paying jobs, and could make energy less affordable for consumers.” — AFP