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Obama Administration Opens Arctic and Gulf of Mexico to More Offshore Drilling

For Immediate Release
March 15, 2016

Dallas Goldtooth, 708-515-6158,
Faith Gemmill, 907-750-0188,
Cherri Foytlin, 334-462-4484,


Obama Administration Opens Arctic and Gulf of Mexico to More Offshore Drilling
5-Year Draft Plan Protects Atlantic but Continues to Sacrifice Other Regions

Washington DC – Today, the Obama Administration released the draft of its 2017-2022 plan for offshore drilling, known as the Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.  The plan proposes to prohibit drilling in the Atlantic Ocean but offers 13 new potential lease sales – 10 sales in the Gulf of Mexico, which is still healing from the disastrous BP oil spill, and three sales in the sensitive Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska.

The President has made numerous statements to address and mitigate climate change, however this plan represents a business-as-usual approach to committing ourselves to more offshore drilling, at time when experts around the world are warning us to curb further fossil fuel development. The Administration also agreed to a goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels contained in the UN Paris Agreement. Scientists around the world have stated that such a goal is not only required to protect future generations, but depends on us leaving at least 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

The draft offshore drilling plan would make available 67 billion barrels of oil (BBO) and 223 trillion cubic feet of gas (TCF), or approximately 72% of the untapped oil and natural gas in the Outer Continental Shelf of the United States. Producing and burning the untapped fossil fuel reserves of the Arctic alone has the potential to release 15.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The President has also stated numerous times that he wishes to acknowledge the rights of Indigenous peoples and to protect frontline Indigenous communities from the harmful effects of climate change. The proposed offshore drilling plan would only place these frontline communities at greater risk for climate-related disaster and the destructive impacts of potential oil spills. Many coastal communities are already facing the threat of forced relocation due to sea-level rise, with the Biloxi-Chitimacha Indians of Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana already being the first climate refugees in the United States. We cannot continue to designate the Gulf Coast and remote Alaska villages as sacrifice zones to future fossil fuel development.  


The Indigenous Environmental Network:

“Even with Atlantic exemption, President Obama’s off-shore leasing plan remains a vibrant contradiction to all things that are supposed to mitigate climate change,” states Dallas Goldtooth, Keep It In The Ground Campaign Organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network. “We cannot hope to see a Just Transition towards a renewable energy future, without a complete rejection of the dirty energy of the past. This plan is an affront to the lives of those Indigenous coastal communities of Alaska and the Gulf Coast, who are already carrying the brunt of our carbon addiction as quintessential sacrifice zones. For the benefit of Mother Earth and our future generations, we must Keep Fossil Fuels In the Ground. The President must take the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico off the oil and gas chopping block.”

Faith Gemmill of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL) states:

“Alaska’s Indigenous peoples are already living with unsustainable fossil fuel extraction, and dealing, with the resulting negative cumulative impacts, such as loss of our subsistence resources, detrimental impacts to human and ecological health which is compounded by climate change.  Further pursuits into pristine ecosystems that Alaska Native peoples depend on for subsistence such as the Arctic Ocean would perpetuate the long lasting devastating consequences of the fossil fuel energy economy and climate chaos in Alaska.  We strongly urge the administration to implement a clean renewable energy economy now that would respect and uphold Indigenous peoples subsistence rights, but also address the current climate crisis.”

Cherri Foytlin of Bridge the Gulf and Idle No More Gulf Coast states:

“Obama’s  offshore drilling plan is nothing to celebrate for us here in the Gulf Coast. I am very glad that the east coast is protected and does not  face the risk of a disaster like the BP Oil Spill.  For generations our communities have been the sacrifice zones of America for oil development. We have lost 40 significant cultural sites in the past year because of rising waters. Indigenous people of Louisiana are the country’s first climate refugees. Our children cannot breath clean air or drink clean water. This plan does not help us, it does not protect us, it’s not selling leases, it’s selling our futures, it’s selling our lives. I’m happy that some children on the east coast will be protected, I just wish mine were as well.”

The proposed plan will be open for a 90-day comment period before the plan is finalized at the end of this year.