Description: Action challenging federal government's decisions to hold offshore oil and gas lease sales.
Gulf Restoration Network v. Zinke
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 04/21/2020 Memorandum Opinion Download Federal defendants' and intervenor-defendants' motions for summary judgment granted. Federal Court Rejected NEPA Claims in Challenge to Gulf of Mexico Leases. A federal district court in the District of Columbia ruled that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) fulfilled its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in connection with two offshore oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico. First, the court found that BOEM considered a “true” no action alternative, rejecting the plaintiffs’ argument that it was improper to assume that future leasing would result in the same effects under the no action alternative. Second, the court was not persuaded that BOEM’s hard look at impacts was undermined by reliance on safety rules that were being partially repealed and that were allegedly enforced inadequately. Third, the court rejected the argument that a supplemental environmental impact statement was necessary due to a reduction in royalty rate that the plaintiffs argued would result in higher levels of development and production than were assessed. 07/16/2018 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Environmental Groups Challenged Offshore Oil and Gas Lease Sales in Gulf of Mexico. Gulf Restoration Network, Sierra Club, and Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and other defendants to challenge decisions to hold offshore lease sales for oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico. The plaintiffs asserted that the defendants relied on “arbitrary” environmental analyses in violation of NEPA and the Administrative Procedure Act. The complaint alleges two “fundamental defects” in the NEPA analysis: (1) an “irrational reliance on the false assumptions that preexisting, safer policies would remain in place,” even though the Department of the Interior had begun to implement repeals of drilling safety regulations and reductions in royalty rates, and (2) an assumption that the same projected environmental effects would occur even if the lease sales were not held. The complaint alleged that oil and gas development in the Gulf contributes significantly to climate change through emissions emitted by exploration, development, and production operations, as well as downstream combustion.