Before the new administration takes over next month, President Obama took new action Wednesday to place large sections of the Arctic and the Atlantic Oceans off limits to oil drilling. NPR reports: The Arctic protections are a joint partnership with Canada. “These actions, and Canada’s parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth,” the White House said in a statement. “They reflect the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region’s harsh conditions is limited,” the White House added. “By contrast, it would take decades to fully develop the production infrastructure necessary for any large-scale oil and gas leasing production in the region — at a time when we need to continue to move decisively away from fossil fuels.” Obama’s action designates 31 Atlantic canyons “off limits to oil and gas exploration and development activity,” totaling 3.8 million acres, according to the administration. It provides the same protections to much of the Arctic’s waters, covering the “vast majority of U.S. waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas,” totaling 115 million acres. Canada is doing the same to “all Arctic Canadian waters,” the joint statement adds. Obama took these actions by invoking a law called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which gives the president the authority to withdraw lands from oil and gas leases.
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