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President Obama blocks offshore drilling in Atlantic and Arctic oceans

Posted: 8:10 AM, Dec 21, 2016
Updated: 2016-12-21 08:10:09-05

President Obama just took millions of acres of federal waters off the table for oil and gas companies.

Obama used a  little-known provision  in the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to ban new leases for offshore drilling in federally owned parts of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

The  action covers  98 percent of U.S.-owned waters in the Arctic Ocean, as well as about 3.8 million acres in the Atlantic Ocean. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau simultaneously  announced action  to ban oil and gas drilling in Canada's Arctic waters.

The administration is  characterizing this  as a permanent ban, but President-elect Donald Trump might have something to say about that.

There's not a lot of precedent to go on here, but in 2008, President George W. Bush  rescinded an executive ban  on offshore drilling initially passed by his father in 1990. Trump might be able to do the same with Obama's action.

While on the  campaign trail , Trump promised to open up federal lands to the oil and gas industry. And with a Republican-held Congress, there won't be much standing in the way of doing just that.