Environmental group loses challenge to Interior OCS drilling program

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has rejected a challenge to the Interior Department’s leasing program for potential oil and gas drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

The Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE) had argued, among other things, in a hearing before the D.C. Circuit last September that Interior’s 2012-to-2017 leasing schedule for oil and natural gas rights failed to properly evaluate and protect the OCS social and environmental values.

CSE also made various procedural arguments, saying that the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) used a biased analytic methodology and providing inadequate opportunities for public comment.

Two members of the three-judge panel issued a consensus opinion finding that (1) CSE had legal standing to bring the case, (2) the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) claims are ‘unripe,’ (3) two of the group’s program challenges are forfeited, and (4) CSE’s remaining challenges to Interior’s adoption of the 2012-2017 leasing schedule fail on their merits.

The third member of the panel, Senior Circuit Court Judge David Sentelle, dissented, but only on the issue of whether CSE had standing to bring the case at all. “I would dismiss the petition for lack of standing. Therefore, I would not reach the merits of the case, and I express no disagreement with my colleagues’ decision on the same,” Sentelle said.

In the introduction to its decision, the appeals court panel noted that according to research there is enough oil beneath the OCS to replace America’s oil imports for 30 years and enough natural gas to supply all of America’s households for more than 80 years.

The D.C. Circuit case is Center for Sustainable Economy vs. Sally Jewell and Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; No. 12-1431.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.