Barack Obama is acting quickly to ensure that his climate change legacy will not be undone by Donald Trump’s incoming administration. On Tuesday, he announced a ban on offshore drilling in 98% of federally-owned Arctic ocean waters and in 31 coral canyons in the Atlantic, an area stretching from New England to Virginia. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would also put in place a five-year ban on new licensing in Arctic waters, CBC news reports

“These actions, and Canada’s parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth,” Obama said in a statement. 

Trump’s team has vowed to roll back some of Obama’s environmental protections and regulations in hopes of sparking a “domestic energy revolution,” AP reports

Read more: Trump's EPA Pick Scott Pruitt May Be the Worst Thing Ever to Happen to Planet Earth

But this may be easier said than done.

The new Arctic and Atlantic drilling regulations are drawn from an obscure 1953 law, called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which stipulates 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.” 

Although the law clearly states that a president can withdraw federal lands from leasing, it says nothing about future administrations’ ability to reinstate those lands. 

Experts expect this could lead to a protracted legal battle “that could hold off [Obama’s] successor — or at least keep him at bay for several years,” the New York Times reports. 

Read more: The 2016 Arctic Report Card: Basically an ‘F’

At least in the short-term, the winners of the Obama’s executive action will be the environment overall, polar bears and bowhead whales that inhabit the now-protected Arctic territories, as well as the deepwater corals and rare fish that populate the Atlantic’s coral canyons. 

The move was widely celebrated by environmentalists.


Defend the Planet

The Arctic Is Now Safe From Drilling, Thanks to Obama and Trudeau

By Phineas Rueckert