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Victory for the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans

Victory: Earthjustice celebrates President Obama’s decision to permanently protect most of the Arctic Ocean and important parts of the Atlantic from offshore drilling
Walrus in the Arctic's Chukchi Sea.

Walrus in the Arctic's Chukchi Sea.

Sarah Sonsthagen / U.S. Geological Survey
December 20, 2016
Washington, D.C. —

Today, President Barack Obama announced that he is withdrawing most of the Arctic Ocean and important areas in the Atlantic permanently from future oil and gas leasing under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Scientists, environmental leaders and hundreds of thousands of citizens across the country had urged the president to take action to protect critical habitat from oil spills, to aid the transition to a clean energy future and to help the United States meet the carbon reduction goals necessary to avert the worst effects of global climate change. The move is widely supported—a recent poll showed that nearly 60 percent of Americans support permanent protection of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans from oil and gas drilling.

Photo Essay Frozen Treasure: Defending The Arctic

A ringed seal is on the lookout for polar bears as it surfaces.
Paul Nicklen / National Geographic Creative

Statement from Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen:

“We applaud President Obama’s actions today, which will permanently protect most of the Arctic Ocean and important parts of the Atlantic from expanded offshore drilling. As President Obama said at a May gathering with the leaders of five Nordic nations in Washington, D.C., ‘We have a moral obligation—to this and future generations—to confront the reality of climate change and to protect our planet, including our beautiful Arctic.’

“Today’s action will help us live up to that obligation and offer important protection for ocean ecosystems and wildlife. This move is especially important as a new administration hostile to the scientific consensus about climate change—and eager to open federal lands and waters to more drilling—prepares to take power.  

“During his two terms, President Obama has worked to guarantee that the United States led the battle against climate change. Today, he greatly enhanced his legacy in that fight and substantially advanced protection for our threatened ocean ecosystems by permanently taking offshore drilling off the table in most of the Arctic Ocean and important parts of the Atlantic. We thank him for this courageous and farsighted action.”


Maggie Caldwell, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2084

We're the lawyers for the environment, and the law is on our side.