Wednesday, December 21, 2016

US and Canada prevent oil drilling in Arctic waters

The United States and Canada will freeze future oil and gas drilling in their Arctic waters, a move applauded by environmentalists but denounced by the energy industry.

The White House said on Tuesday that US President Barack Obama is making most of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in Alaska off limits to offshore oil and gas leasing.

Canada, meanwhile, will make all Canadian Arctic waters no-go zones for energy drilling, but will review the decision every five years.

"These actions, and Canada's parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on Earth," Obama said in a statement.

He noted even with high safety standards, the risks of an oil spill in the fragile and remote environment were too high.

Obama made the move under a provision of a 1953 law that allows the president to remove areas from offshore drilling, and there is no provision for future presidents to roll it back, US officials said.

  • 'Unique and vibrant ecosystems'

The move aims to protect the "incredibly unique and vibrant ecosystems," the interests of indigenous people, and to minimise oil spill risks.

Obama will also ban new oil and gas leases along the US Atlantic coast from New England to Virginia.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the move would help support fishing and protect the marine resources of Alaska native communities.

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