President Obama Indefinitely Blocks Offshore Drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans

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A protestor holds a sign during a rally against offshore drilling in Lafayette Square near the White House in May 2016 (Photo: AP)

In an attempt to preserve what’s left of this earth and to leave a legacy of environmentally sound decisions in the last weeks of his presidency, President Obama has indefinitely blocked offshore drilling in parts of the Arctic and the Atlantic Ocean.

The Washington Post reports that Obama used the little-known Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to indefinitely ban offshore drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas as well as canyons in the Atlantic, spanning the distance between Massachusetts and Virginia. The regions in the Arctic are particularly important as they are also the habitats for a variety of endangered and soon-t0-be endangered species like the polar bear, the bowhead whale and the Pacific walrus.

A five-year moratorium on offshore drilling in the Atlantic is already in effect, the Post reports, but the ban put into place by Obama essentially ensures that most of the eastern seaboard is off limits.

In case you’re wondering whether or not a Trump administration or a Republican congress can come in and undo this order, the answer is hopefully not, though who knows what will happen, as it’s abundantly clear that precedent has little to no bearing on anything that has happened thus far.

“There is a precedent of more than half a century of this authority being utilized by presidents of both parties,” a White House aide said. “There is no authority for subsequent presidents to un-withdraw. . . . I can’t speak to what a future Congress will do.”

Hmm. That’s reassuring, I guess? David Rivkin, a lawyer with stints on the White House Counsel staffs of George H.W. Bus and Ronald Regan, offered his two cents, saying“Basically I say the power to withdraw entails the power to un-withdraw, especially if you determine the justification for the original withdrawal is no longer valid.” Something tells me that the Trump administration will find a way to determine that this decision is no longer valid.

Naturally, Republicans have already denounced this decision, including Ted Cruz, who called the decision an “abuse of power.” The decision by Obama is in concert with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. Jeff Brady of NPR’s All Things Considered reports that technically, there is no legal precedent to reverse this order, so if the Trump administration tries it, the courts will have a very tough decision on their hands.

Let’s hope that they leave this one alone.