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Bill McKibben: Climate Activists Celebrate Obama’s Arctic Drilling Freeze & Harper’s Canadian Defeat

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In a victory for environmentalists, President Obama has ended the possibility of oil drilling in the Arctic for the rest of his tenure. The Obama administration has canceled plans to sell new drilling leases and refused to extend leases that were previously sold. The move comes after Shell halted its $7 billion bid to drill for oil in the Arctic amid a series of setbacks and tireless activist opposition. Activists are also celebrating the election outcome in Canada, where voters unseated three-term Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a major backer of carbon-intensive oil extraction and a foe of global climate regulation. We get reaction from Bill McKibben, head of 350.org, one of the nation’s leading climate activist groups.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, if you could comment quickly, before we go to Congressmember Lieu on another issue, on two developments? Friday, the Obama administration quietly said they will no longer issue leases for drilling in the Arctic. You know, Shell had said they’re going to stop, but then the Obama administration said this, number one. And, two, the victory of Justin Trudeau, the new prime minister-designate of Canada, his support for the Keystone XL, what that means? But start with the Obama administration.

BILL McKIBBEN: So, in the Arctic, look, what a victory for brave activists, especially in the Northwest, those kayaktivists, whose pictures you showed, blocking the harbors in Portland and Seattle. Shell claimed that they didn’t find much oil in the Arctic. What they really found was way more trouble than they bargained for.

As for Canada, the election results, I mean, who knows exactly effect it will have on Keystone? But it must be said that in the last seven or eight weeks, the two most fossil-fueled Western leaders, Tony Abbott in Australia and Stephen Harper in Canada, are out on their ear. It’s not as if, you know, all our problems are solved by that, but it’s a pretty good sign of where the momentum suddenly is. I don’t think that—just as the Arctic isn’t going to be fully developed for oil, I don’t think that those expansion plans for the tar sands, where they were going to double and triple and quadruple production, I don’t think they look very healthy today, either.

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