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A Trump Reversal On Obama's Arctic Drilling Policy Won't Be Easy

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Obama's administration has removed the Arctic Ocean from any new oil or gas leasing for the next five years. Alaska Public Media's Rachel Waldholz reports it won't be easy for the new administration to undo that.

RACHEL WALDHOLZ, BYLINE: The announcement has been anticipated and dreaded in Alaska. Environmental groups have said the potential effect on climate change and the risk of a possible oil spill make Arctic offshore drilling simply too risky. And Niel Lawrence, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says it would take a decade or more to produce oil from Arctic waters.

NIEL LAWRENCE: You know, we'll be in a world that does not need that oil - that has moved on, largely, from fossil fuels.

WALDHOLZ: The oil and gas industry and Alaska's elected officials are blasting the decision. Lucas Frances is with the industry group Arctic Energy Center. He says without investment in the Arctic, the U.S. is missing a chance to project strength.

LUCAS FRANCES: But in removing Arctic leases - the potential sale of Arctic leases - it removes the investments that could be made down the road.

WALDHOLZ: Some Alaskan Native groups have also pushed to keep the region open to development. Rex Rock Sr. heads the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

REX ROCK SR: Slamming the door shut on opportunity does nothing to help my region or my people either now or in the future.

WALDHOLZ: If the incoming Trump administration wants to allow new exploration in the Arctic Ocean, it will have to start over almost from scratch, a regulatory process that would likely take years.

For NPR News, I'm Rachel Waldholz in Anchorage.

SIMON: And that story came to us from Alaska's Energy Desk, a Public Media collaboration that's focused on energy and the environment. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.