OBAMA ACTS TO BAN OFFSHORE DRILLING IN ARCTIC AND EAST COAST

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California leaders urge President to extend West Coast ban that ends in 2022

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

December 21, 2016 (San Diego) -- President Barack Obama, in an effort to cement his environmental preservation legacy, has taken action to protect vast areas from offshore oil drilling in the Arctic and along the East Coast. 

The  1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act allows presidents to withdraw lands from future leasing. It's been used by past administrations to restrict oil exploration on the West and East coasts, though those bans included expiration dates. 

The action would be difficult for a Trump administration to reverse, since it utilizes a law, not an executive action.

Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) President David Holt  blasted President Obama's decision to remove large swaths of the U.S. Arctic and portions of the Atlantic from potential future energy development.  The alliance members include energy producers, businesses, farmers and consumers.

“As anti-energy activists cheer the announcement as an early Christmas present, it is a far different story for millions of Americans across the country, especially those on fixed incomes who are struggling to make ends meet, depend on affordable and reliable energy to meet daily needs, and are unable to pay for increased electricity or fuel costs,” a statement issued by Holt reads.  He also accused Obama of defying the will of communities and elected officials, particularly in Alaska.

Holt adds that he hopes incoming President Trump and a new Congress will provide an opportunity to undo President Obama’s action , which he calls “irresponsible” and “misguided.”

Meanwhile top  California officials including Governor Jerry Brown, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and the state senate joined governors of Washington and Oregon in a letter asking President Obama to use Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – to take West Coast drilling off the table, too, since protections for most of the west coast expire in 2022.

Future presidents can’t repeal executive orders issued under the act, according to the Sacramento Bee, which issued an editorial also calling on Obama to utilize the law to permanently protect California’s coastline from oil drilling. 

The Sacramento Bee editorial concludes, “A ban would preempt the possibility that the Pacific Coast will become a Trump administration hostage-in-waiting. And it will limit our contribution to the rising sea levels, tropical diseases, extreme weather, wildfires and record heat waves that will make the gathering political storm look like a day at the beach.”