Obama cuts Arctic waters from five-year drilling plan
By ESTHER WHIELDON
President Barack Obama is throwing up roadblocks to Donald Trump’s pledges to expand offshore drilling, with a new plan that will declare parts of the Arctic off-limits.
Obama’s Interior Department on Friday issued its final five-year road map for offshore oil and gas drilling that took two areas in the Arctic out of contention, dealing a win to environmental groups and obstructing a path to new offshore drilling in the area. The plan is vulnerable to being unraveled by Trump, who has pledged to expand oil and gas production, but it would take at least a few years for him to do so.
The blueprint by the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management schedules 10 region-wide leases in the Gulf of Mexico from 2017 through 2022 and another in Alaska’s Cook Inlet in 2021. But the agency dropped its March draft proposal to offer leases in the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2020 and 2022, pleasing environmental groups.
“The plan focuses lease sales in the best places — those with the highest resource potential, lowest conflict and established infrastructure — and removes regions that are simply not right to lease,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement. “Given the unique and challenging Arctic environment and industry’s declining interest in the area, forgoing lease sales in the Arctic is the right path forward.”
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