WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- The Obama administration canceled offshore drilling in Alaska's Arctic Ocean for the coming two years after scrapping current and future drilling plans in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
The Department of the Interior announced it is canceling two lease sales it had planned for the next two years for Arctic drilling rights and denied requests from two oil companies to extend leases on drilling rights. It comes less than a month after Shell Oil pulled its drilling operation out of the Arctic, citing disappointing results and high costs.
"In light of Shell's announcement, the amount of acreage already under lease and current market conditions, it does not make sense to prepare for lease sales in the Arctic," said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.
In making the change, the Interior Department said it will cancel the two potential Arctic offshore lease sales, and it rejected appeals by Shell and Statoil to extend Arctic leases first obtained during administration of George W. Bush.
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, called the decision a "stunning, short-sighted move that betrays the Interior Department's commitments to Alaska."
"This is the latest in a destructive pattern of hostility toward energy production that began the 1st day this administration took office," she said on Twitter.
Environmentalists applaud the move as a positive step for the environment. Marissa Knodel, with Friends of the Earth Climate said, "the Obama administration finally made the right choice for the Arctic and our climate future."
"Arctic Ocean conditions make it one of the worst places to drill, especially at a time when it is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet," she said. "While it is encouraging to see the Obama administration take bold actions like cancelling and refusing to extend existing Arctic oil and gas leases, true climate leadership will keep all future leases off the table and Arctic oil and gas in the ground."