Outgoing President Obama has permanently banned offshore oil and gas drilling in the Northern Waters owned by U.S. Areas in the Atlantic, and Arctic Oceans have been designated as “indefinitely off limits” to future leasing by Mr. Obama.
Canada also committed to saving its own Arctic water in a joint announcement with Washington. The Trump-supporters would find it difficult to reverse the move, and the decision has been seen as an attempt to the save the region from future exploitation before Obama leaves the office in January.
While Canada will review the decision every five years, the U.S. decision appears to be permanent. The decision was taken by a 1953 law according to which the president can indefinitely ban leasing of offshore resources.
White House insisted that the ban would be permanent. The reasons cited for the ban include the need for a robust and sustainable Arctic ecosystem and economy, risk to wildlife culture, and the overall unguarded nature of the region to oil spills.
During the campaign, Trump said that he would make use of the existing U.S. reserves, which made the environmentalists concerned about the future.
The Trump supporters or institutions which would benefit from the reversal of the decision, like American Petroleum say that Trump can reverse the ban, as there is no such thing as a permanent ban. On the other hand, environmental groups have said that no President has ever reversed the decision of leasing offshore resources for oil and gas development taken by a previous President. Friends of the Earth group stated that “if Trump tries to reverse the move, he would be in court.”
The oil industry doesn’t have a good safety record in the Northern waters; an Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground in Alaska in 1989 which had a devastating effect on the animal species. The 1300 miles coastline got polluted when hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil spilled. Shell also halted Arctic exploration after its drilling rig Kulluk ran aground in 2014.
The drilling conditions in the Arctic are the most challenging in the world, the bacteria in the Gulf can break down oil products easily, but the waters are so cold in the Northern Waters that bacteria takes much longer for the breakdown of oil products.
President Obama has been advocating strong climate policies and paying heed to what scientists had to say about the role humans are playing in global warming. The oil firms will still want to explore for more profits.
Environmental campaigners have been worried about Trump’s choices at the White House. They have criticized the appointments of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and Rick Perry as energy secretary. Mr. Perry has called for less oil regulation previously. Similarly, Trump’s pick to head EPA, Scott Pruitt is seen as a climate change denier.
Little to no oil drilling takes place in the Arctic at the moment, as the process is onerous and more expensive than other viable options.