Earthjustice Statement on Proposed Five-Year Plan for Federal Offshore Oil Leases

Leadership to protect Atlantic Ocean should be replicated in the Arctic


Rebecca Bowe, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2093

Federal officials today released a draft plan that would protect the Atlantic Ocean from offshore oil and gas drilling until at least 2022. This is a huge step forward for the region, and it is a decision that advances the President’s unprecedented commitment to taking meaningful action on climate change. But the plan would leave open federal waters in the Arctic Ocean to offshore oil and gas drilling during that same time, putting at risk a fragile and irreplaceable region and undermining positive steps to combat climate change.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
Maps of the 2017–2022 oil and gas leasing proposed program areas for the lower-48 states (top) and Alaska region (bottom). Larger maps.

The proposed five-year plan, unveiled today by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior, charts the areas of the outer continental shelf that could be offered for lease to oil and gas companies from 2017–2022.

The plan rightly excludes the Atlantic Ocean, but leaves sensitive marine habitat in the Arctic Ocean vulnerable to future oil and gas development. Arctic offshore drilling would contribute to unsustainable carbon emissions and put previously undisturbed areas at risk of an oil spill. BOEM will accept public comments on the draft plan for 90 days, and a final plan is expected by the end of the year.

Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen released the following statement in response to the five-year plan:

“We applaud the Obama administration for rightly excluding oil drilling from the Atlantic Ocean and recognizing that offshore drilling in sensitive and irreplaceable areas like the Atlantic is a thing of the past. It cannot be done safely, and it is incompatible with the President’s historic commitments to tackle climate change. But the proposed plan does not extend this logic to the Arctic Ocean, the place most dramatically affected by climate change, and instead leaves it open to drilling. The Administration should take this opportunity to safeguard the Arctic Ocean as well—and further President Obama’s climate legacy—by excluding it from the five-year plan. And, to ensure this protection stands, the President should use his authority to put the Arctic and Atlantic permanently off limits to drilling.”

Earthjustice calls on the Administration to remove offshore lease sales in the Arctic from BOEM’s proposed five-year plan, to use the President’s authority to ensure both the Arctic and Atlantic oceans never again face the threat of oil drilling, and to commit to a just transition for the Gulf toward a clean energy future.

Oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. (Lucasz Z / Shutterstock)

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