Western Caucus Members Reject Obama’s Unilateral Offshore Drilling Ban, Pledge to Work with Trump to Immediately Overturn

Dec 20, 2016

For Immediate Release

Date: December 20, 2016

Contact: Steven D. Smith



WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, President Obama took unprecedented unilateral action to block future mineral exploration and development of 118.8 million offshore acres in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) and caucus members Congressman Don Young (AK-At large) and Congressman Garret Graves (LA-06) issued the following statements in response:

“President Obama’s latest political maneuver unilaterally removes 118.8 million acres from U.S. mineral potential, jeopardizes our energy security and threatens to kill good-paying jobs throughout the country. This Christmas give-away for the president’s favorite special-interest groups is not based on merit or need. Making it tougher to produce oil and natural gas in America defies commonsense and could make us more dependent on volatile foreign markets,” said Chairman Gosar. “It has become abundantly clear that in his final desperate days in office, the president is more concerned with appeasing far-left ideological groups than with the well-being of the American people. This latest midnight executive action by a lame duck president won’t stand and I’ll work closely with the Trump Administration to reverse this misguided moratorium that jeopardizes affordable energy.”

“Hell-bent on locking away our resources and suffocating our already weakened economy, President Obama is one step closer to solidifying his place next to Jimmy Carter as Alaska’s worst nightmare,” said Congressman Young. “Frankly, this is a cowardly move by a lame duck President – eight years to take this action, yet it comes at the 11th hour with little to no support from Alaskans. I’ve been adamant with this administration; Alaska is not and should not be used as the poster child for a pandering environmental agenda. This decision only strengthens our resolve – as a resources oriented state – to overturn the heavy hand of government and empower our people and communities with new social and economic opportunities. The groundwork is already being laid to overturn this terrible decision.”

“Today’s White House announcement is disappointing, but unsurprising; it’s a continuation of Obama’s efforts to increase employment opportunities in Iran, Venezuela and other nations rather than the United States. Federal energy policy needs to strike a balance between environmental and economic priorities - not impose ‘government knows best’ mandates like this one. We’re looking forward to working with the next Administration to strengthen our national energy security and foster a job creation environment while responsibly stewarding the environment,” said Congressman Graves.


The massive mineral withdrawal announced by President Obama today encompasses 3.8 million acres in the Atlantic Ocean and 115 million acres in the Arctic Ocean.

(Courtesy of the American Petroleum Institute)
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) Section 12(a) allows a President to withdraw OCS areas from leasing consideration – It does not say that these withdrawals are permanent. A permanent withdrawal would be entirely contrary to Congress' stated purpose in creating OCSLA, which was to make the OCS "available for expeditious and orderly development.”

In addition, a permanent and unilateral withdrawal by the president would conflict directly with the special role that OCSLA gives governors in OCS leasing decisions. Past precedent shows that the President has power to undo a 12(a) withdrawal through a simple presidential memorandum.

Specifically, in 2008 George W. Bush used a simple memorandum to remove previous 12(a) withdrawal areas and open all OCS lands to leasing except marine sanctuaries. President Trump, once in office, can similarly rescind any areas withdrawn by President Obama with a simple memorandum.