The oil and gas industry is a strange thing. I worked in it for years, paying my rent and liquor bills with oil money, getting drunk off my tiny slice of that wrecking ball of a profit margin. As it stands right now, we need that industry. Employing millions and driving our decadent way of life, if we were to cut it entirely, the world would go into a tailspin. But it’s not sustainable, it’s not healthy, and it’s not the way into the future–anyone who tells you otherwise is either stupid or has a motive. So before President Obama is about to secede his throne to a stupid man with a motive, he’s putting forth a few measures that ensure his legacy as a President who’s a fan of Mother Nature isn’t tarnished. As part of a coordinated effort with Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau, he just effectively banned offshore oil and gas drilling from millions of acres in the Arctic and Atlantic.
“These actions, and Canada’s parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth,” the White House said in a statement. “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.”
Using a law called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, Obama put the federally owned land under protection from drilling. Included are vast swathes of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, and a long stretch of canyons in the Atlantic. The new measures will protect over 460,000 square miles of marine territory. Now, most of the eastern seaboard and a staggering 98% of all Arctic waters are off limits to oil and gas extraction.
According to the Washington Post, “removing the canyons from drilling puts much of the eastern seaboard off-limits to oil exploration even if companies develop plans to operate around them.” The bans are an addition the five-year moratorium in the region.
The move was coordinated with Canada and protects much of Canada’s Arctic waters. This comes after Justin Trudeau’s surprising approval of the controversial Kinder Morgan Pipeline project, a proposal that many who voted for the Prime Minister disapprove of. This was after the US turned down Canada’s Keystone XL Project. “The application for a cross-border permit for the Keystone XL pipeline project was turned down by the United States Government today. We are disappointed by the decision but respect the right of the United States to make the decision,” wrote Trudeau in a statement. “The Canada-U.S. relationship is much bigger than any one project and I look forward to a fresh start with President Obama to strengthen our remarkable ties in a spirit of friendship and co-operation. The Canada-U.S. relationship is much bigger than any one project and I look forward to a fresh start with President Obama to strengthen our remarkable ties in a spirit of friendship and co-operation.”
Companies with leases in state waters, though, don’t have anything to worry about: the previously existing leases won’t be affected.
President Obama was able to put the measures into effect using a 1953 law called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which, whether by accident or design, has no clause that allows future presidents to overturn a previous president’s enactment. As such, Obama’s legal team are saying the ban will be indefinite.
As is to be expected, many Republicans are pissed–largely lawmakers and those on the inside of the fossil fuel industry. It’s a dying industry, and although it is still necessary, it is even more necessary that we look to the future and how we might do things differently. It’s obvious to all those without blinders on that the current methods don’t work.