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President Obama’s Arctic Decision

Undercut His Own Legacy

By Randall Luthi

On December 20, 2016, in an 11th 12(a) of the OCSLA allows the President to withdraw ar- hour unilateral action designed to ce- eas from oil and gas leasing, it is doubtful that Congress ment his environmental legacy, Presi- ceded the power to “permanently” withdraw offshore areas. dent Obama withdrew 3.8 million acres In fact, a permanent withdrawal appears to contradict the in the north and mid-Atlantic Ocean stated purpose of the OCSLA; namely to make the OCS and 115 million acres in the U.S. Arc- “available for expeditious and orderly development.” tic Ocean (including the entire Chuk- The Obama White House claimed the withdrawals chi Sea and a signi? cant portion of were based in a “science-based approach to oil and gas,” the Beaufort Sea) from future oil and but that is simply not the case. The decision discounted

Luthi gas leasing. Unlike the ? ve year mora- the industry’s remarkable real-world applications of science toria announced by Canada, President and technology. Not only were dozens of wells safely drilled

Obama touted these closures as “permanent.” Not only does in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas back in the 1980s and this short-sighted decision threaten the economic lifeline of 1990s using the technology of that era, Shell safely drilled a

Alaska, U.S. energy leadership and U.S. national security, it new well in the Chukchi Sea in the summer of 2015 using rejects many of the tenets he actively forwarded during his far more advanced modern day technology. As other Arc- presidency. Instead of a transparent, thoughtful and science- tic nations are proving that safe offshore exploration and based process, President Obama chose the politically expedi- development can be done above the Arctic Circle, Obama ent course, much to the delight of anti-fossil fuel, “keep it benched the United States. Furthermore, President Obama in the ground,” environmental extremists. The withdrawals based this decision on a willful ignorance of what resources table thousands of potential jobs, billions of dollars of much are actually in the Alaska OCS. A thoughtful scienti? c ap- needed government revenue and real opportunities for proach would have allowed exploration of these areas ? rst much needed economic investment in our nation’s Arctic. to determine if there were signi? cant resources available be-

As 2016 drew to a close, and President Trump’s election fore even contemplating such a broad unilateral ban.

was reaf? rmed (through recounts and the Electoral Col- Even more insulting, he claimed to be doing Alaskans a lege), President Obama warned his successor of the dan- favor with the withdrawal. Nothing could be further from gers of excessive rulemaking through executive orders and the truth. The inconvenient truth for Obama is that 76 per- extolled the need for Congressional involvement in major cent of Alaska residents and 72 percent of Alaskan Natives policy issues. Ironically, Obama then circumvented the let- support offshore development, and 90 percent of Alaska ter and the spirit of the law by invoking Section 12(a) of the state revenues are generated by the oil and gas industry. Yet,

Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) to withdraw Obama’s Arctic withdrawals treat Alaska as nothing more the Atlantic and Arctic offshore areas (as he did to withdraw than a snow globe to be shaken and placed on a shelf by areas in the Bering Sea earlier in December). While Section the hand of Washington, DC – a political pawn sacri? ced © ggw / Adobe Stock

March 2017 MN 18

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