Obama Attempts to Ban Offshore Drilling by Executive Fiat


Yesterday [December 20], the Obama administration issued an executive action effectively banning offshore drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. Heritage’s energy expert Nick Loris had this to say:

“Obama’s executive action is taking economic opportunity away from American families and decisions away from states which have a strong incentive to ensure natural resource development happens – and happens responsibility. Just like Keystone XL, climate change regulations on power plants, moratoriums on coal leases and fracking regulations, this decision was not based on sound science but a politicized goal to keep affordable, reliable energy in the ground.”

The very nature of the executive action is sure to spark legal controversy when Pres.-elect Trump takes office. John Malcolm, director of the think tank’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, had the following to say:

“It is hard to see how President Obama, by the stroke of a pen (here in the guise of two Presidential Memoranda), can permanently or indefinitely prevent a future president or Congress from approving oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.  Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953 provides that ‘The President of the United States may, from time to time, withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf.’

“While this act clearly gives President Obama the authority to withdraw leasing rights for the designated areas, it does not say he can do so permanently, thereby tying the hands of a future president or Congress.  While a future president cannot unilaterally rescind a validly-enacted and clearly constitutional law, unilateral actions taken by one president, even if taken pursuant to existing law, can generally be undone by a future president.  While I have no doubt that there will be lawsuits filed by environmental groups if President-elect Trump rescinds these memoranda after taking the oath of office, it is hard to see how they will succeed.”

Used with the permission of the Heritage Foundation.

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