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August 12, 2010

Texas Attorney General challenges drilling moratorium

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott yesterday filed a legal challenge to the Obama Administration's offshore drilling moratorium. The State's legal challenge charges the Administration with violating a federal law that requires the Secretary of Interior to consult with affected states before imposing an offshore drilling moratorium. Filed on behalf of the State of Texas, Governor Rick Perry and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, the suit names the following defendants: the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI); DOI Secretary Kenneth Salazar; the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement - formerly known as the Minerals Management Service - and BOEM Director Michael Bromwich.

"The federal government ignored the State of Texas and failed to comply with the law when the Secretary of the Interior unilaterally imposed the Administration's offshore drilling ban," Attorney General Abbott said. "Under federal law, affected states are guaranteed the right to participate in offshore drilling-related policy decisions, but the Obama Administration did not bother to communicate, coordinate or cooperate with Texas. Worse, the Secretary of the Interior failed to consider the economic consequences of his decision, which will cost the Texas economy millions of dollars - and threatens far too many hard-working Texans' jobs."

Court documents filed by the State set forth that the Administration unilaterally imposed its offshore drilling ban without properly coordinating with the State of Texas. Further, the Administration also improperly failed to consider the moratorium's economic impact on Gulf Coast states, including Texas. Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), the Interior Secretary must coordinate with affected states and weigh a moratorium's economic impact before imposing an offshore drilling ban. Despite the OCSLA's requirements, the Obama Administration did not consult with Texas on either issue.

On July 12, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the current offshore drilling moratorium without any prior notice to or communication with the State of Texas - despite the fact that Texas refines more oil than any other state. As the State's complaint explains, an economic impact analysis produced by Louisiana State University has projected that Texas will suffer a $622 million decrease in Gross State Product because of the six-month moratorium. Thus, Texas clearly meets the statutory definition of an "affected State" under the OCSLA. Nonetheless, the Department of the Interior did not give the State of Texas an "opportunity to participate" in the federal government's decision-making process - which constitutes a violation of the OCSLA and the Administrative Procedure Act.

As the State's legal challenge asserts, the Administration's failure to consult Texas led the Secretary of Interior to implement an unjustified, arbitrary and capricious policy that will inflict economic harm upon coastal communities - particularly those that are most dependent upon offshore drilling for jobs and tax revenue. The legal action seeks a court order declaring that the State of Texas must be provided a reasonable opportunity to participate in the formulation of the Secretary's offshore policy. Further, the Secretary must give due consideration to the drilling moratorium's economic impact.

The Texas legal challenge targets the Administration's second offshore drilling moratorium. The first drilling moratorium, which was also imposed without proper notice to - or consultation with - the State, was retracted by the Administration after multiple private parties successfully sued the Administration in a federal district court. A June 22 decision in the federal district court for the Eastern District of Louisiana enjoined the Administration from enforcing its moratorium. Undeterred by the court ruling - and once again without notice to or consultation with Texas - the Interior Secretary simply withdrew the initial moratorium and imposed a second offshore drilling ban on July 12, which halts all drilling operations in water depths of greater than 500 feet.

Assistant Attorneys General Nicholas Canaday III and Nichole Bunker-Henderson with the Environmental Protection and Administrative Law division will serve as lead counsel to the State of Texas in this case.

Read the state's petition HERE


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