Thanks, Obama — President Permanently Protects Important Areas of Atlantic Ocean from Offshore Drilling

December 20, 2016 • News

WASHINGTON – Today, the Obama administration moved to permanently protect important areas of the Atlantic Ocean from offshore drilling. Using his authority under section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, President Obama is withdrawing 3.8 million acres in the north and mid-Atlantic Ocean from future mineral extraction, protecting 31 canyons that extend from Heezen Canyon offshore New England to Norfolk Canyon offshore of the Chesapeake Bay. 

This announcement follows several recent historic moves by the Obama administration to decrease America’s dependence on dirty fossil fuels, including the removal of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans from the five-year program (from 2017-2022) for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf.

Official portrait of President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In response to today’s announcement, Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s senior vice president for the United States, released the following statement:

“President Obama has taken a key step in protecting important areas of the Atlantic Ocean from offshore drilling. In doing so, he is making a good decision – a smart business decision – based on science and facts. This decision will help protect existing lucrative coastal tourism and fishing businesses from offshore drilling, which promises smaller, short-lived returns and threatens coastal livelihoods. The people of the Atlantic coast refused to allow their way of life to be compromised and we commend their hard work making their voices heard in Washington.

 As we celebrate this important step forward, we must not forget that a vast stretch of water from Delaware to Florida is still at risk from unnecessary seismic airgun blasting, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean’s surface. Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean, firing intense blasts of compressed air every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks to months on end. The government’s own estimates state that seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could injure as many as 138,000 marine mammals like dolphins and whales, while disturbing the vital activities of millions more. With offshore drilling off the table for the near future, permits for seismic airgun blasting should be denied. We are hopeful that President Obama will deny all pending permits for seismic airgun blasting off the East Coast.

Over the last two years, Oceana has supported a powerful grassroots movement against offshore drilling activities in the Atlantic Ocean. As of today, more than 120 East Coast municipalities, over 1,200 elected officials, and an alliance representing over 35,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families have publically opposed offshore drilling and/or seismic airgun blasting. These individuals and groups understand that nearly 1.4 million jobs and more than $95 billion in gross domestic product are at risk if dangerous oil activities proceed.”

oceana, offshore oil drilling

Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one third of the world’s wild fish catch. With over 100 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that one billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. To learn more about Oceana’s work in the United States, please visit www.usa.oceana.org.