In a win for our oceans and climate, President Obama drops plans for Arctic, Atlantic drilling

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Rachel Richardson

Environment America

Washington, D.C. – In a win for our oceans and climate, the Obama administration finalized its oil and gas leasing program, which provides protection for the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from risky oil and gas drilling for the next five years.

“Coastal businesses, fishermen, and marine life learned the lesson after the BP disaster that when you drill, you spill,” said Rachel Richardson, director of Environment America’s Stop Drilling Program. “People spoke up loudly and clearly against offshore drilling. We are thrilled the Atlantic is protected for the next five years and adding protection for the Arctic makes the victory that much sweeter.”

“Unfortunately, our friends and neighbors in the Gulf that live with the devastating impacts of dirty drilling every day are not as lucky,” Richardson added.

The initial 2017 to 2022 Outer Continental Shelf leasing plan proposed by the Obama Administration in January 2015 threatened beaches from Virginia to North Carolina and both Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean.

After massive coastal and small business opposition, the Obama administration released an updated plan in March that cancelled the Atlantic leases areas, but Arctic and Gulf leases remained. Today’s final version completely removes leases areas in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in the Arctic Ocean and reflects the decision made in March to rescind Atlantic drilling. 10 leases remain in the Gulf of Mexico and one off of Alaska’s coast in Cook Inlet.

“Coming from the little tourist town of Kure Beach, North Carolina, I’ve been proud to stand with friends from the Arctic as we turned out record numbers of opponents at public hearings and delivered millions of comments to the White House opposed to offshore drilling. We’re so proud the President has decided to preserve our economy, fragile ecosystems, and coastal ways of life for the next five years,” said Dr. Kyle Horton, MD, MBA.

The administration’s decision provides momentum for the fight to protect the Arctic and Atlantic oceans from offshore drilling not just for the next five years, but forever. A recent survey showed that a majority of Americans support permanent protection for the Arctic and Atlantic from oil and gas development. Additionally, more than 72 members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama in October urging him to use his authority for permanent protection.

Other opposition to offshore drilling has been growing for months. Last spring, environmental groups presented the administration with more than 2 million signatures from Americans calling for no new drilling. More than 1,100 businesses have voiced opposition to offshore drilling, including more than 350 organized by Environment America and over 400 from heavily Republican South Carolina. Earlier this month, more than 12,000 businesses voiced their opposition to seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.

While the administration has cancelled lease sales in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans for the next five years, the Gulf of Mexico remains under attack by the oil and gas industry and the future fate of our oceans remains unclear.

“We applaud the Obama Administration for doing right by the Arctic and Atlantic for the next five years,” Richardson said. “After the hottest year on record, we can’t afford to keep drilling and burning fossil fuels. The only safe amount of drilling for our climate and communities is none at all – that is why President Obama should extend permanent protection for the Atlantic and Arctic oceans before leaving office.”