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Photo: NASA

Before it vacates the White House in January, the Obama administration is scrambling to tackle any remaining concerns.

The soon-to-be ex-president is barring further oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean, a practice that environmentalists say inherently harms native wildlife. The Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the Alaskan coast are given particular consideration, as the sanctions explicitly halt further exploration of these areas. Sanctions will also prevent oil companies from drilling in the Atlantic off of four southeastern states.

Sea ice in the Chukchi Sea, Alaska. (Image Credit: NOAA)

Sea ice in the Chukchi Sea, Alaska. (Image Credit: NOAA)

“The plan focuses on lease sales in the best places – those with highest resource potential, lowest conflict, and established infrastructure – and removes regions that are simply not right to lease,” says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “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.”

Offshore drilling is consistently linked to global warming. Man’s reliance on fossil fuels is not only linked to warmer temperatures but also resulting in massive consequences for the planet’s ecosystems. Extreme or unpredictable weather patterns brought on by climate change and related phenomena have ravaged several species over the last three years, and things have only gotten worse.

Environmental advocates praised the White House’s planned sanctions. Figures like Wilderness Society program director Lois Epstein have long felt that drilling in the Arctic is not only expensive but terribly unnecessary. “This oil is not needed because there likely will be ample world oil supply available for many years,” she explained. “The trans-Alaska pipeline system has enough oil throughout to operate for the next half-century.”

Shell's Polar Pioneer drilling rig in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. (Photo Credit: Shell Oil Company)

Shell’s Polar Pioneer drilling rig in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. (Photo Credit: Shell Oil Company)

Others, however, were critical of Obama’s decision, claiming it would clash with economic pursuits and cut more jobs. President of the Petroleum Institute Jack Gerard expressed his feelings on the matter, saying, “Our national energy security depends on our ability to produce oil and natural gas here in the U.S., and this decision could very well increase the cost of energy for American consumers and close the door on creating new jobs and new investments for years. We are hopeful the incoming administration will reverse this decision.”

Indeed, Trump’s personnel are causing many to wonder if environmental concerns will be removed from political decisions. The businessman turned leader of the free world has expressed interest in reversing gas and oil limitations in the hopes of bringing back jobs rendered obsolete during the Obama administration. Should these barricades be destroyed in the coming years, areas unavailable before could be leased as early as 2019, though some say Trump will have a hard time implementing these changes.

“We have ways to thwart him in Congress and in the courts we could employ,” says David Goldston of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Obama has built one of the most impressive environmental agendas in history, protecting more land and water sources (approximately 265 million acres) than any other president. The ban is slated to last through 2022.

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