Letter to Barack Obama, President of The United States - Stop Arctic Oil Drilling


Dear Mr. President:

We write to express our gratitude for your leadership in confronting one of the greatest challenges facing our country and the world: climate change. In keeping with that record of achievement, we respectfully request that you use your authority under section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to fully withdraw both the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic Ocean from any future offshore oil and gas leasing.

The United States must continue to lead the fight against global warming not only by committing to clean energy alternatives, but also by closing the door on new, dangerous and environmentally harmful fossil fuel extraction. Protecting the Atlantic and Arctic coastlines against future oil and gas extraction would send a powerful signal to the world that the United States is fully committed to delivering on our climate commitments. It would help defend our communities and future generations against the health, environmental, and economic impacts of climate change and the possibility of a catastrophic oil spill. Plain and simple, we do not need and we cannot afford to expand drilling into these sensitive areas.

As you know, section 12(a) gives the President unilateral authority to protect sections of the outer continental shelf from future energy development leasing. You and your predecessors have used section 12(a) to protect hundreds of millions of marine acres, some for defined time periods and others in perpetuity. Notably absent from section 12(a) is authority for a successor president to undo a permanent withdrawal. We believe that forever withdrawing the Arctic and the Atlantic Oceans from leasing, reflecting the strong public interest in stemming climate change and protecting our coasts, is a particularly appropriate use of the statute's broad and clear terms.

Taking this action would be consistent with the vision of drastically reducing U.S. emissions outlined in the Climate Action Plan. Fragile marine ecosystems in both oceans -- and the businesses that rely on them -- would also be crippled by a future environmental disaster resulting from a blowout or other failure offshore. Oil and gas from the Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Ocean -- once developed -- would not reach consumers for multiple decades, so opening up leases in those areas would not meet any immediate energy needs. But drilling would immediately put at risk a significant commercial fishery along the Atlantic seaboard. Finally, removing any prospect of drilling in these sensitive areas would demonstrate to the world that the United States is dedicated to delivering on our climate commitments by preventing actions that would lock in future emissions and send a powerful market signal that clean energy is the better investment. Beyond these serious environmental concerns, in March, the Pentagon strongly opposed drilling off the Atlantic coast because it could impact military maneuvers and the Navy's ability to defend our coasts. For a host of reasons, permanently protecting both Oceans from fossil fuel development is in the best interests of the United States and the world.

We know that we can avoid long-term offshore fossil fuel leasing commitments because there are far better alternatives available. Over the course of your two terms in office, thanks in large part to your leadership, renewable energy has become more efficient, more reliable, and less expensive. Those developments have supported new and exciting jobs and also reduced pollution in the process.

We share your vision for a cleaner energy future, and we applaud you for the bold action you have already taken to protect future generations from the worst impacts of climate change. We encourage you to consider our request to take another critical step in permanently protecting the Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Ocean from future fossil fuel development. Doing so would be in keeping with the legacy you have worked so consistently to develop. Thank you for your consideration of this important request. We look forward to hearing from you.