In Big Climate Win, President Obama Drops Arctic Ocean From Off-Shore Drilling Plans

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Environment New Jersey

Trenton – 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. But with the incoming Trump administration, permament protections for our protected oceans becomes even more paramount.

 “When you drill, you spill. Today’s Obama Administration decision finalizes protections for the Atlantic Ocean and takes the Arctic Ocean out of the danger zone for the next 5 years,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “But with the impending Trump Administration, President Obama needs to take the next step of permanent protections for our oceans from drilling.”

The Gulf of Mexico was not protected, which still leaves the Gulf at risk for a future disaster along the scale of the BP disaster, which is still impacting the ecology of the Gulf. The initial 2017 to 2022 Outer Continental Shelf leasing plan proposed by the Obama Administration in January 2015 threatened beaches all along the Atlantic Coast, including the Jersey Shore, and both Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean.

After massive coastal and small businesses opposition, especially here in New Jersey, the Obama Administration released an updated plan in March that cancelled the Atlantic lease 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 Alaska’s coast in Cook Inlet.

The Obama 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, 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.

Leading up the cancellation of the Atlantic lease areas, more than 1,400 people – the vast majority against drilling – attended public meetings on the plan. Coastal tourism, bait shops, and other businesses who reply on a healthy ocean environment and clean beaches were also vocal in opposing drilling.  More than 1,100 businesses have voiced opposition to offshore drilling, including more than 350 organized by Environment America and more than 400 from heavily Republican South Carolina.

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 and the future fate of our oceans remains uncertain under a Trump Administration.

“We applaud the Obama Administration for doing right by the Arctic and Atlantic oceans for the next five years,” O’Malley 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 before leaving office.”