Happy New Year to everyone
From Nanook & friends
President Obama announced on Tuesday what he called a permanent ban on offshore oil and gas drilling along wide areas of the Arctic and the Atlantic Seaboard as he tried to nail down an environmental legacy that cannot quickly be reversed by Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Obama invoked an obscure provision of a 1953 law, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which he said gives him the authority to act unilaterally. While some presidents have used that law to temporarily protect smaller portions of federal waters, Mr. Obama’s declaration of a permanent drilling ban on portions of the ocean floor from Virginia to Maine and along much of Alaska’s coast is breaking new ground. The declaration’s fate will almost certainly be decided by the federal courts.
“It’s never been done before,” said Patrick Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School. “There is no case law on this. It’s uncharted waters.”
The move — considered creative by supporters and abusive by opponents — is one of many efforts by Mr. Obama to protect what environmental policies he can from a successor who has vowed to roll them back. The president, in concert with United Nations leaders, rushed countries to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change, putting the multinational accord into force in record time, before Mr. Trump’s inauguration.
Environmentalists are already drawing comparisons between Mr. Obama’s use of the 1953 law to ban new drilling to what critics and opponents called his novel and audacious efforts to create new climate change regulations: He turned to an obscure, rarely used provision in the 1970 Clean Air Act to write sweeping regulations that would require states to shift their electricity systems from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. The Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for the Dakota Access oil pipeline that had raised the ire of Native Americans.
Mr. Obama is picking his fights carefully — the drilling ban is a case in point. But other presidents who have invoked old laws to enact new policies have not run up against successors like Mr. Trump.
He has mocked climate change as a hoax perpetrated by China and has attacked Mr. Obama’s environmental regulations as job killers. More important, he has promised to make fossil fuel mining and drilling across the nation’s lands and waters a central feature of his economic program. As such, he is not likely to let Mr. Obama’s drilling ban go unchallenged.
In many cases, Mr. Trump and a Republican Congress in line with the new president’s ambitions will be able to roll back some of Mr. Obama’s most recent environmental regulations. But because of new and legally inventive strategies, Mr. Obama and his staff may well have built firewalls around environmental policies that could hold off his successor — or at least keep him at bay for several years.