Salazar seeks clarification of ruling vacating current OCS program

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asked the US Department of Justice on May 11 to seek clarification from a federal appeals court of its Apr. 17 decision vacating the current Outer Continental Shelf leasing program.

May 15th, 2009

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asked the US Department of Justice on May 11 to seek clarification from a federal appeals court of its Apr. 17 decision vacating the current Outer Continental Shelf leasing program.

The US District Court of Appeals vacated the 2007-12 program as part of its decision that the Bush administration did not use sound science when it expanded leasing areas in the Beaufort, Bering and Chukchi Seas for the 2007-12 program. Relying on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study of environmental impacts of offshore oil and gas activity on Alaskan coastal areas was not sufficient, Chief Judge David B. Sentelle wrote in the opinion.

Salazar said that at his request, DOJ will ask the court to confirm its interpretation of the decision as not requiring retroactive invalidation of prior leases. It also will ask the court to let DOI and the US Minerals Management Service to fix the shortcomings in the Alaska portion of the five-year plan, which has been under way since July 1, 2007, without having to develop and approve an entirely new one.

"The previous administration's failure to apply the law has resulted in widespread uncertainty in the oil and gas industry and put reliable conventional energy production from offshore areas at risk. We must fix the problems the court identified and put oil and gas leasing decisions back on firm scientific footing," the secretary said.

In its decision, the court rejected other parts of the petition by the Center for Biological Diversity which argued that DOI should have considered potential climate change impacts in the 2007-12 federal leasing program. The court also rejected the group's arguments that the program violated provisions in the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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