Late Tuesday afternoon, President Obama announced he would indefinitely extend his ban on oil drilling in Bristol Bay off Alaska's southern coast. The bay is a big commercial fishing region, including the world's largest sockeye salmon runs, and provides habitat for fragile whale species and other wildlife.
"It is something that is too precious for us to just be putting out to the highest bidder," the president said in a video message.
Unlike most federal decisions about where oil companies can and can't drill, this one was rather uncontroversial.
Major business and industry groups generally held their fire or had a low-key response, though the National Ocean Industries Association knocked Obama for "unilaterally removing areas from consideration" without fully knowing their resource potential. Even GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who has long accused Obama of keeping drilling rigs away from too many lands and waters, this time offered only a criticism of his process—not the substance of the decision.
"What I do not understand is why this decision could not be made within the context of the administration's upcoming plan for offshore leasing, or at least announced at the same time," said Murkowski, who will head the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee next year. She noted the oil industry's "lack of interest" in the Bay.