President Barack Obama announced Wednesday he supports development of some oil and gas leases in Arctic waters off Alaska's coast but won't allow drilling in federal waters near Bristol Bay.
The decision could clear a path to a promising frontier for oil and gas companies in Alaska, where production from aging oil fields has been falling for over two decades. In the last few years, oil companies have spent billions for rights to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, which may hold some of the biggest oil and gas deposits in the country, federal scientists say.
Obama announced support for drilling on existing leases there. But the president said he would cancel planned Chukchi and Beaufort lease sales so that environmental and oil-spill risks could be studied further.
His decision to ban drilling near Bristol Bay, amid the state's richest fishing grounds, was a solid win for fishermen and environmentalists that campaigned against leasing there.
In general, Obama offered something to oil companies, environmental groups, Native interests and Alaska political leaders but didn't give any group everything it wanted.
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