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Soundings Archive

D. C. Circuit Clarifies Scope Of Its Offshore Lease Ruling
On April 17, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an opinion that the U.S. Minerals Management Service did not conduct an adequate analysis under section 18(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act before MMS scheduled oil and gas lease sales on the Alaska Outer Continental Shelf.

On May 11, 2009, MMS asked the Court to clarify the scope of its decision. In particular, Secretary Salazar of the Department of Interior, MMS' parent agency, asked the Court whether its opinion invalidates MMS' entire 2007-2012 Offshore Leasing Plan, or is it limited to the areas off Alaska.

On July 28, 2009, the Court issued an order clarifying that its ruling only applies to the Chukchi, Beaufort, and Bering Seas. The Court also ordered MMS to file with the court, at 60-day intervals, status reports on MMS' new analysis pursuant to the Court's opinion. Within 30 days of the Court's clarification order, the parties to the case also have to file motions recommending how future proceedings in the case should occur.

MMS' Court-ordered review of leases for the Alaska OCS will inevitably involve marine mammal issues.

  • Click here to read Court's clarification order
  • Click here to read Interior's press release on order

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