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A Victory for Important Arctic Safeguards

Department of the Interior withdraws a proposal to weaken Arctic drilling rule

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© U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Good news! The 2016 Arctic Drilling Rule—an important federal regulation designed to protect the Arctic Ocean from the potentially catastrophic impacts of exploratory oil drilling—is no longer under threat.

Let’s keep the momentum going: urge the Department of the Interior to lead the way toward a renewable energy future.

Last year, the Trump administration proposed regulatory changes that would have stripped away vital safety and environmental protection standards, substantially weakening the 2016 Arctic Drilling Rule. This misguided proposal would have made it easier and cheaper for oil companies to drill in U.S. Arctic waters. At a time when we need to shift away from polluting fossil fuels toward renewable energy sources, a plan to make it easier to conduct risky drilling in Arctic waters would have been exactly the wrong approach.

Fortunately, the Trump administration failed to finalize its proposed changes before President Biden took over. In February, the Department of the Interior—now under new leadership—gave the public more time to comment on the proposed rule changes. Members of the public, including thousands of Ocean Conservancy members and supporters, took advantage of the extended comment period and urged the agency to withdraw the proposed rule change.

The Department of the Interior got the message.

Earlier this month, the agency announced it was dropping the Trump administration’s plan to weaken the 2016 Arctic Drilling Rule. In doing so, it recognized what was obvious all along: the 2016 Rule is “critical to ensuring adequate safety and environmental protections for this sensitive ecosystem and Alaska Native subsistence activities.”

Make no mistake: this is a big win for the Arctic. It also marks an important turning point. Now that we’ve defeated the Trump administration’s last-ditch effort to strip away Arctic safeguards, we can focus on convincing the federal government to chart a path away from dirty, risky fossil fuels and toward a safe, renewable sources of energy.

The Department of the Interior is ready to listen. Earlier this year, it kicked off a comprehensive review of the federal oil and gas program, including offshore oil and gas activities. This gives members of the public—like you—an important opportunity to urge the Department of the Interior to be a better steward of our ocean. Join us: tell the Department of Interior to lead a rapid, just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels and toward a renewable energy future.

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