‘Permanent’ Offshore Drilling Ban in Uncharted Waters

bloomberg-resize-01Bloomberg | January 20, 2017 | Alan Kovski

President-elect Donald Trump will soon be able to test the question of whether a president can successfully rescind or modify a previous president’s ban on offshore oil and gas drilling.

It will be a step into the unknown if he tries it. Presidents have terminated or modified offshore drilling bans in the past, but have never faced a court challenge over a president’s authority to do so.

President Barack Obama used a Dec. 20 memorandum to put all of the Chukchi Sea and almost all of the Beaufort Sea off limits to oil and gas drilling, excepting only rights under existing leases. Another Obama memorandum the same day put 26 Atlantic underwater canyon areas off-limits to drilling.

The withdrawals of areas from offshore leasing plans were to be “for a time period without specific expiration,” the presidential memorandums said.

“Fortunately, there is no such thing as a permanent ban,” Erik Milito, American Petroleum Institute upstream director, said in a statement released in response to Obama’s decisions. “We are hopeful the incoming administration will reverse this decision.”

But a presidential reversal and a legal challenge to such a reversal are both in legal gray areas.

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