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U.S. may ban some offshore drilling

If true, Greenpeace said the ban would be a crucial step for the environment.

By Daniel J. Graeber
U.S. may ban some offshore drilling
Obama White House could be placing a ban on some offshore oil and gas developments. Photo by Kyle Waters/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- A potential move from the Obama administration to ban Arctic and Atlantic oil and gas drilling is a crucial step amid presidential transition, Greenpeace said.

Sources familiar with offshore developments suggested last week that President Barack Obama was considering using his authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to issue an executive order that would ban permanently either parts of or all drilling in the Atlantic or Arctic waters.

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The 1953 law gives the executive branch the ability to impose limits on oil and gas drilling, though past presidential use of the law came with time restrictions. Those who suggested the move could take place spoke on condition of anonymity because plans have not yet been released by the president.

"If true, millions of people around the world will be grateful to President Obama for permanently protecting much of the Arctic and the Atlantic coasts from catastrophic oil exploration and development," Greenpeace spokesperson Travis Nichols said in an emailed statement.

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In November, more than 10,000 businesses and hundreds of thousands of families tied to commercial fishing sent a letter through an Atlantic Coast business alliance to Obama urging him to restrict access to oil and gas companies. Some companies are already using seismic surveys to get a better understanding of the reserve potential and opponents of the activity argue it interferes with normal communication patterns for some marine species, though contractors said the impacts are temporary.

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The Obama presidency is ending and President-elect Donald Trump has put forward a pro-oil agenda. Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson was selected as secretary of state for the next administration, for example.

Trump in a statement on his potential energy policies said the United States would become energy independent under his leadership. While the outline put a clear focus on non-renewable resources, the president-elect said the environment would still get attention

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"We know now, more clearly than ever, that a Trump presidency will mean more fossil fuel corruption and less governmental protection for people and the planet, so decisions like these are crucial," Nichols said. "President Obama should do this and more to stop any new fossil fuel infrastructure that would lock in the worst effects of climate change."

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