Obama to block new Arctic drilling

Obama to block new Arctic drilling
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President Obama is planning in the coming days to release an offshore oil and natural gas plan that blocks new drilling leases in the Arctic Ocean through 2022, people familiar with the plan said.

The decision is part of the Interior Department’s five-year plan for offshore drilling, which lays out all of the proposed auctions for drilling rights on the outer continental shelf.

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There will be no drilling rights sales between 2017 and 2022 in the Beaufort or Chukchi seas, which comprise the United States’s share of the Arctic Ocean, north of Alaska, according to two sources.

Bloomberg Politics first reported on the offshore drilling plan, which the Interior Department is planning to release soon.

Interior spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw declined to comment on what is in the plan but said the administration is committed to releasing it by Inauguration Day.

Obama in March had taken off the table a proposal to allow some offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, in an area stretching from Virginia to Georgia.

Since Obama’s decision is so late in his presidency, Congress could act early next year to overturn it through the Congressional Review Act, something President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems win from coast to coast Falwell after Gillespie loss: 'DC should annex' Northern Virginia Dems see gains in Virginia's House of Delegates MORE would likely approve.

The United States’s portion of the Arctic Ocean has never had oil or gas production from traditional offshore drilling. Royal Dutch Shell last drilled exploratory wells in the summer of 2015 but found that the oil and gas potential was not worth the cost.

Environmentalists concerned about the climate impacts, potential spills and other effects from offshore drilling have pushed Obama to reduce offshore drilling and block it completely from the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

They specifically have asked Obama to invoke a rarely used legislative provision they argue would allow him to permanently prevent drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic. Calls for that sort of prohibition have grown significantly in the last week since the election of Trump as the next president.

It is unclear if Obama plans to implement such a ban.

The oil and gas industry, along with congressional Republicans and others, have called on Obama to open more waters to drilling. They say that the market should decide whether drilling should happen in a certain place or not.