President Barack Obama is expected to use a 1953 law to permanently ban offshore drilling in certain federally-owned waters in the Arctic Ocean.
In order to do this, Obama will use a provision in the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to ban the drilling, which gives the president powers to determine offshore energy exploration is conducted and allows them to make those waters off-limits for oil and gas drilling, reported The New York Times.
The provision has been used by several presidents in the past, including Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton.
The main difference between the past presidential actions and the current plan is that Obama wants to make his protections permanent, while the others came with time restraints between one and two decades.
News of Obama's actions was praised by environmentalists.
"If the reports are right, then this is a gift to the public and to our kids that will rank with any in the history of American conservation," Niel Lawrence, Alaska director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Bloomberg.
"If true, millions of people around the world will be grateful to President Obama for permanently protecting the Arctic and the Atlantic coasts from catastrophic oil exploration and development," Greenpeace spokesman Travis Nichols said.
But Lucas Frances, spokesperson for the oil industry-supported Arctic Energy Center, told Bloomberg there is a great deal of interest in exploring the areas near Alaska for drilling and that this ban would put those plans in jeopardy.
“If reports are true, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Obama administration is playing politics with the future of Alaska,” Francis said.