The Obama administration is poised to ban offshore drilling in the Arctic and much of the Atlantic until 2022, with the announcement set to come as early as Tuesday.
The decision reverses course on President Barack Obama's plan a year ago to sell oil and gas leases to fossil fuel companies to drill in the waters off much of the southeastern Atlantic—a measure that led to widespread outcry from coastal communities—and follows his more recent move that ended new lease sales for drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in the Arctic.
"This is incredible news for our beaches, for our family vacations, and for sea turtles and whales," said Maggie Alt, executive director of Environment America. "Atlantic coastal communities spoke up loudly and clearly against drilling and spilling, and today the president is standing with them."
Jamie Henn, communications director of the climate action group 350.org, tweeted in response to the news, "Yes! Now it's time to protect the Arctic, Gulf Coast, and all public lands."
The five-year plan was widely expected following Obama's meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week, which included a significant environmental focus. In a joint statement, the leaders said they would use a science-based approach to make decisions on Arctic extraction.
"Atlantic coastal communities spoke up loudly and clearly against drilling and spilling, and today the president is standing with them."
—Maggie Alt, Environment AmericaGreen groups welcomed the news, but cautioned that the administration must expand its protection to all federal land and water to meet its Paris climate goal of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5°C. That includes other wide swaths of the Atlantic that may not be included in the plan, such as the Gulf of Mexico, where the disastrous BP oil spill took place in 2010.
"Business as usual in the Gulf has to change," said Amanda Starbuck, program director at the Rainforest Action Network. "We call on President Obama to heed the people’s demand in the Gulf, and across all coasts to end destructive offshore leases and keep all fossil fuels in the ground."
Alt added, "We applaud the president for protecting our Atlantic beaches and coastal way of life. And to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, we must keep the vast majority of oil, coal, and gas beneath the sea and in the ground. That’s why we urge the president to meet the Paris climate accord and his new agreement with Canada, and also reject new drilling in the Arctic and the Gulf."