Description: Challenge to oil and gas lease sale in Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska.
Alaska Wilderness League v. Jewell
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 08/28/2015 Brief Download Opening brief submitted. 08/28/2015 Complaint Download Proposed third supplemental complaint filed. Plaintiffs Added Climate Change NEPA Claim to Chukchi Sea Lease Sale Challenge. Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment and a supplemental complaint in their challenge in the federal district court for the District of Alaska to the second supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for an oil and gas lease sale in the Chukchi Sea off the Alaskan coast. The plaintiffs, which are environmental groups and Alaskan communities, added a new count alleging that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM’s) failure to analyze the climate change effects of the consumption of oil and gas from the lease sale in the second SEIS violated NEPA. In support of their motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs contended that advances had been made since preparation of earlier environmental analyses that would allow the agency to assess the impacts of oil and gas extraction on climate change based on “an overall atmospheric ‘carbon budget.’” The plaintiffs said that BOEM had improperly concluded that it could not perform an assessment of whether the lease sale would affect energy markets and consumer behavior, and had also improperly concluded that NEPA did not require it to consider climate impacts of burning lease sale fuels. 06/01/2015 Not Available Download Joint status report pursuant to court's May 4th, 2015 order filed. After the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) affirmed its approval of an oil and gas lease sale in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska, the parties notified the federal district court for the District of Alaska that the plaintiffs had decided to challenge BOEM’s determination. These developments regarding the Chukchi Sea lease sale followed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in January 2014 that BOEM’s earlier environmental review for the lease sale was deficient because it was based on an arbitrary estimate of the amount of economically recoverable oil. In response to the Ninth Circuit’s decision, BOEM issued a supplemental environmental impact statement in February 2015 and a record of decision in March. In the challenge to this round of decision-making, the parties are to complete their briefing by October 9, 2015. 06/20/2014 Federal Register Notice Download Notice of intent to prepare SEIS published. In April 2014, the federal district court for the District of Alaska remanded the matter to BOEM for further analysis in keeping with the Ninth Circuit’s opinion. The court ordered BOEM to provide bimonthly updates, and barred BOEM from removing suspensions on drilling in the lease area and from approving or “deeming submitted”any exploration plans submitted by lessee. In May 2014, BOEM submitted its first status report, indicating that it had begun drafting a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) and collecting and analyzing information to create a expanded exploration and development scenario to study on remand. BOEM estimated that it would issue its record of decision in March 2015. In June 2014, BOEM published a notice of intent to prepare an SEIS in the Federal Register. 05/23/2014 Not Available Download Federal defendants filed status report after remand. 04/24/2014 Order Download Order in light of remand issued.
Native Village of Point Hope v. Jewell
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 01/22/2014 Opinion Download Opinion issued. The Ninth Circuit reversed a district court’s grant of summary judgment to the federal government in a case challenging the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM’s) approval of an oil and gas lease sale in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska. The Ninth Circuit “largely” agreed with the district court that BOEM had not abused its discretion in its handling of missing information in the environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Ninth Circuit agreed, however, with the plaintiffs-appellants that BOEM had acted arbitrarily in choosing a one billion barrel estimate for the amount of economically recoverable oil from the lease sale, and that BOEM’s environmental review and ultimate decision were therefore based on inadequate information. Evidence in the record showed that BOEM employees, other agencies, and public commentators had expressed concerns about the rationale for the one billion barrel estimate and whether it significantly underestimated the likely amount of recoverable oil. The Ninth Circuit was not persuaded by the government’s argument that any errors in the estimate could be corrected for in site-specific environmental reviews later in the development process because “[i]t is only at the lease sale stage that the agency can adequately consider cumulative effects of the lease sale on the environment, including the overall risk of oil spills and the effects of the sale on climate change.” The Ninth Circuit therefore held that since BOEM had decided oil production was reasonably foreseeable, it should have based its analysis on “the full range of likely production if oil production were to occur.” Judge Rawlinson dissented in part, indicating that he would have deferred to the agency on the issue of the one billion gallon estimate.