President Obama announced Tuesday he has indefinitely blocked offshore drilling along most of Alaska's coast and from Norfolk, Virginia, to the Canadian border.
Obama is rushing to protect his environmental policies before he leaves office in January, and he used an obscure provision of the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to enact the ban, saying it gave him the authority to act unilaterally, The New York Times reports. Drilling is now banned in 115 million acres of federally owned Arctic waters, home to endangered species like polar bears, as well as 3.8 million acres along the Atlantic Coast, protecting coral canyons.
At the same time on Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his own ban on drilling in Canadian Arctic waters. "These actions, and Canada's parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth," Obama 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."