Energy & Environment

Senate Dems ask Obama to block Atlantic, Arctic offshore drilling

Fourteen Senate Democrats are asking President Obama to indefinitely block offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

The senators, led by Sens. Ed Markey (Mass.) and Cory Booker (N.J.), want Obama to take advantage of a legal provision that they say allows him to unilaterally protect the United States’s outer continental shelf in those oceans.

{mosads}“Using this authority to permanently protect these areas would ensure that important industries in our coastal states such as fishing and tourism are protected, that we do not despoil our beaches and coastlines or the sensitive ecosystem of the Arctic Ocean, and that we align our long-term federal energy decisions with a climate-safe future,” the Democrats, who are mostly from coastal states, wrote Thursday.

Obama previously used the provision of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to block drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

Obama is planning before he leaves office to issue a schedule for offshore drilling rights lease sales between 2017 and 2022. The next president cannot add sales to that schedule without going through a time-consuming process to formally change the schedule.

Earlier this year, Obama withdrew the Atlantic from that schedule and said he would put strict environmental and climate conditions on any lease sales in the Arctic.

But the Senate Democrats writing the Thursday letter want Obama to go farther with protections that would last far beyond his presidency.

“Allowing drilling anywhere off the East Coast would threaten key economic drivers for coastal states, such as fishing and tourism, with the risk of a spill,” they said.

“Drilling in the Arctic Ocean similarly has the potential to irreparably harm this unique but fragile ecosystem.”

The oil industry and Republican politicians in states bordering the Atlantic and Arctic have been disappointed with Obama’s offshore drilling actions so far and want him to open both areas for exploration and drilling.

Tags Ed Markey Natural gas Offshore drilling oil

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