Bristol Bay drilling ban

This article was originally published in February 2015

President Obama has banned
indefinitely oil and gas exploration
of Alaska’s Bristol Bay to protect
some of the nation’s most productive
commercial fisheries.

Obama first put the ecologically
sensitive area of the Bering Sea off
limits to oil drilling in 2010, but that
restriction was set to expire in 2017.
With the new executive memorandum,
Obama made the ban permanent unless
a future president acts to reverse it.

“It is a beautiful natural wonder,
and it’s something that’s too precious
to us to just be putting out
to the highest bidder,” Obama said
in a
video announcing his decision.

Bristol Bay is home to a variety
of marine life, including beluga,
killer and North Pacific right whales.
It also hosts one of the largest runs
of sockeye salmon in the world,
supporting a $2-billion-a-year fishing
industry that reportedly provides 40
percent of the wild-caught seafood
in the United States.

Obama’s decision does not
directly affect his administration’s
pending decision on whether
to allow mining near the bay. The
Environmental Protection Agency
is considering a preemptive ban on
mineral extraction in the region,
which would ban development
of the proposed Pebble Mine. If
developed, it would be one of the
world’s biggest mines for gold,
copper and molybdenum.

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