President Obama Bans Oil Drilling in Over 100 Million Acres of Ocean Water

President Obama Bans Oil Drilling in Over 100 Million Acres of Ocean Water

The mandate will protect federal waters in both the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

The mandate will protect federal waters in both the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

Text: William Defebaugh

With the Trump administration comes a political leader who has called climate change a "hoax," has said that he wants to abandon the historic Paris Climate Agreement, and has appointed a renowned climate change-denier—Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt—as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Thankfully, President Obama is using his remaining executive power to limit potential damage that the impending President-elect and his cabinet can cause.

Invoking the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, Obama has announced a ban on oil drilling in 115 million acres of federally-owned waters. The best part? The act essentially gives the commander-in-chief the authority to ban drilling in certain areas, and does not contain any provisions that would allow for a later president to reopen them—meaning that the order will be, essentially, irreversible. The efforts are being coordinated with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has also vowed to protect large areas of the Arctic Ocean.

“These actions, and Canada’s parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth,” the Obama administration said in an official statement from the White House. “They reflect the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region’s harsh conditions is limited."

While this is just one step out of many in the work that needs to be done, it's certainly in the right direction—and one that will undoubtedly be entwined with Obama's legacy as the most environmentally-minded president to date, having conserved more land and water than any other in the country's history.

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