According to the White House, Obama’s move on Tuesday will prevent future leasing of certain offshore areas for oil rights, CNN reported.
His successor, Donald Trump, who has promised a policy allowing more US energy production, would face legal challenges if he attempted to reverse Obama’s order.
The White House said Obama was declaring the entire US portion of the Chukchi Sea and the vast majority of the Beaufort Sea “indefinitely off limits for future oil and gas leasing”, citing critical protection for the marine mammals, ecological resources and native populations.
Canada also announced on Tuesday that it will freeze its offshore oil and gas exploration in its Arctic waters.
The US is also declaring 31 canyons off the Atlantic coast off-limits for drilling, citing “critical and irreplaceable ecological value”.
The White House said the decision was for “a strong, sustainable and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem.”
It cited native cultural needs, wildlife concerns, and the “vulnerability” of the region to oil spills as some of the reasons for the ban.
The decision relies on the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, that allows presidents to withdraw lands from future leasing, the CNN said.
It has been used by past administrations to restrict oil exploration on the West and East coasts, though each time the ban on leases was given an expiration date.