As one of the final acts of his environmentally-minded farewell tour, President Obama indefinitely barred new offshore drilling in vast swaths of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, taking advantage of a 63-year-old law to prevent Donald Trump from overturning the ban once in office.
In a joint statement with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (who will similarly bar future oil and gas licensing in the Canadian Arctic), the White House announced the ban on will cover “the vast majority” of federally-owned portions of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
Over the past year, Obama has delighted environmentalists by pushing for a wide range of aggressively green policies. These policies will likely face serious challenges under President Trump, but the White House believes Tuesday’s ban “will stand the test of time,” as it uses the authority of 1953's Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and not easily reversed executive action.
“No president has ever acted to reverse an indefinite withdrawal and we believe there is a strong legal basis,” a senior White House official told The Washington Times on Tuesday. “There is no authority for subsequent presidents to un-withdraw.”
President Obama has reason to suspect his successor might try to overturn such restrictions. In 2011, Trump criticized safety regulations Obama put in place following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, saying, “I think it’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen that we go slow on drilling.”
“There are always going to be problems—you’re going to have an oil spill, you’re going to have this,” Trump told Fox News. “You clean it up and you fix it up and it’ll be fine.”