Obama’s Final Gift To The Oil Industry: No More Arctic Drilling

Jason Redmond/Reuters

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Obama administration is about to release plans to make the Arctic off-limits to offshore drilling and cancel some 25 oil and gas leases at a national forest.

Sources told Bloomberg News’ Jennifer Dlouhy the Department of the Interior’s new five-year offshore drilling plan will “block the sale of new oil and gas drilling rights in U.S. Arctic waters,” which is a big win for environmentalists.

On top of that, Interior Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will join federal and state officials in announcing the cancellation of “25 oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide area of the White River National Forest,” reports Politico. Interior will cancel leases “while leaving others in places and adding new conditions to other leases.”

The decision to block lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas comes after years of more restrictive Arctic drilling policies and a decline in industry interest in exploring for petroleum in the region.

The plan could be short-lived, however. President-elect Donald Trump may decide to scrap Interior’s current five-year plan and start the process anew. There’s also the prospect of Congress using the Congressional Review Act to undo the ban.

Dlouhy notes the plan “is subject to a 60-day congressional review and could be rewritten by President-elect Donald Trump, in a process that could take months or years.”

Republican lawmakers are concerned the Obama administration will rush through a slew of “midnight” regulations before Trump takes office in January, and the House passed legislation Thursday to curb this practice.

“The bill helps ensure this President, and any future president, will be held in check and that their policies have the proper level of scrutiny by both Congress and the American people,” said California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who introduced the bill.

Issa’s bill isn’t likely to go very far, but it’s a sign Republicans are tired of presidents imposing last-minute rules that could take months, or even years, to repeal.

Lawmakers have also worried about major regulations on energy production that could be announced any day.

The Interior Department already unveiled a $1.4 billion regulation for flaring natural gas on federal lands, and should be promulgating its offshore drilling plan soon.

Likewise, the EPA still has to issue new biofuel blending requirements for refiners under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

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