Alaska files suit challenging offshore drilling moratorium"

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September 12, 2010

Alaska files suit challenging moratorium

The State of Alaska last week filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of the Interior in U.S. District Court in Alaska to overturn the federal moratorium on offshore drilling in Alaska's Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The suit seeks to block the moratorium on the grounds that the Obama administration violated federal law and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

The suit appears to be broadly similar to a challenge to the moratorium filed by the Texas Attorney General in August.

Alaska is arguing that the Department of the Interior acted arbitrarily and capriciously and violated federal law by (1) failing to consult with state officials; (2) neglecting to properly consider the significant economic impact of a drilling moratorium; and (3) failing to issue a written decision explaining the basis for the moratorium.

"Development of Alaska's OCS resources is of critical importance to Alaska's future and the economic and security interests of the United States," Governor Parnell said. "We are taking this action to ensure that the federal government abides by applicable federal law, including its legal responsibility to make the OCS available for expeditious and orderly development."

Recently, Governor Sean Parnell advocated for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) to process permits to allow offshore drilling in Alaska waters.

Over the past year, the state has been actively involved in litigation against environmental groups' efforts to shut down OCS development off Alaska's coasts. The focus of this litigation has been to ensure that Alaska's OCS resources are responsibly developed. Recently, the state litigated a case in U.S. District Court in Alaska aimed at narrowing, and ultimately removing, the court's injunction against exploration activities on oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea. The state was successful in its goal of significantly narrowing the court's original injunction.

"Federal law requires consultation with affected states and a consideration of how an agency action will impact the economy," Attorney General Dan Sullivan said. "Here the Department of the Interior did not take these steps before it issued the moratorium. Moreover, the Department of the Interior acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it failed to issue a written decision explaining the grounds for - or the very fact of - the Alaska OCS moratorium. We are therefore seeking to overturn the moratorium on drilling in Alaska because the Obama administration's actions violated federal law and have harmed Alaska and its citizens."

You can see the Alaska filing HERE


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