Obama bans new oil drilling in Arctic Ocean

Obama bans new oil drilling in Arctic Ocean

Royal Dutch Shell hoped to use this rig for exploratory drilling during the summer open-water season in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's north-westImage copyright

Image caption

Nearly 400 scientists signed a letter urging Mr Obama to eliminate Arctic offshore drilling

The Obama administration has introduced a ban on offshore oil drilling in the Arctic for at least five years.

The move is a significant victory for environmentalists who have campaigned for years against drilling in the ecologically fragile region.

But the ban could be overturned by Donald Trump, who has previously pledged to increase offshore drilling.

Drilling will be still allowed in Alaska’s Cook Inlet and several areas of the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the 2017 to 2022 leasing plan published by the US Department of the Interior, drilling will be banned in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off northern Alaska.

The plan will limit, but not ban, development in the Cook Inlet off south-central Alaska.

Of the 11 lease sales proposed in the five-year plan, 10 are in the Gulf of Mexico, historically the focal point of US offshore oil production.

US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said: “The plan focuses lease sales in the best places – those with the highest resource potential, lowest conflict and established infrastructure – and removes regions that are simply not right to lease.”

Industry representatives condemned the decision.

“The arrogance of the decision is unfathomable, but unfortunately not surprising,” said Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association.

Media captionJohn Kerry signs a global climate agreement earlier this year

Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican member of Congress for the region, said she was “infuriated” with President Barack Obama.

She said the president had “once again ignored our voices to side with the factions who oppose” offshore drilling in Alaska.

Jacqueline Savitz, senior vice president of environmental group Oceana, praised Mr Obama for “protecting our coasts from dirty and dangerous offshore drilling”.

Nearly 400 scientists signed a letter this summer urging the president to eliminate the possibility of Arctic offshore drilling.

Mr Obama has attempted to make environmental programmes a central part of his legacy, signing a global accord to curb climate change and an ambitious plan to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants.

But those advances are now at risk as he hands the reins to Mr Trump, who has said he thinks climate change is a hoax and pledged to increase oil and gas drilling.

The decision to block Arctic drilling follows a decision this spring to block drilling in the Atlantic.

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