Washington, D.C. – In a win for our oceans and climate, the Obama administration finalized its oil and gas leasing program, which provides protection for the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from risky oil and gas drilling for the next five years.
"Just like he listened to Virginia's coastal communities who spoke up to protect our Atlantic coast, we applaud the president for listening to the majority of Americans that believe Arctic drilling is too dirty and risky," said Sarah Bucci, Director of Environment Virginia. "Today’s announcement means less pollution for our climate, Virginia's coast, and the fragile Arctic that can’t afford any more drilling and spilling."
The initial 2017 to 2022 Outer Continental Shelf leasing plan proposed by the Obama Administration in January 2015 threatened beaches along Virginia and the Southeastern coast and both Chukchi And Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean with drilling leases.
After massive coastal and small business opposition the Obama administration released an updated plan in March that cancelled the Atlantic leases areas, but Arctic and Gulf leases remained. Today’s final version completely removes lease areas in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in the Arctic Ocean and reflects the decision made in March to rescind Atlantic drilling.
The administration’s decision provides momentum for the fight to protect the Arctic and Atlantic oceans from offshore drilling not just for the next five years, but forever. A recent survey showed that a majority of Americans support permanent protection for the Arctic and Atlantic from oil and gas development. Additionally, more than 72 members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama in October urging him to use his authority for permanent protection.
Other opposition to offshore drilling has been growing for months. Last spring, environmental groups presented the administration with more than 2 million signatures from Americans calling for no new drilling. Earlier this month, more than 12,000 businesses voiced their opposition to seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.
While the administration has cancelled lease sales in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans for the next five years, 10 lease areas remain in the Gulf of Mexico and the future fate of our oceans remains uncertain.
"We applaud the Obama Administration for doing right by the Arctic and Atlantic oceans for the next five years," Bucci said. "After the hottest year on record, we can’t afford to keep drilling and burning fossil fuels. The only safe amount of drilling for our climate and communities is none at all -- that is why President Obama should extend permanent protection before leaving office."