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Soundings Archive

Environmental and Alaskan Native Groups Sue over MMS Approval of Shell Drilling in the Chukchi Sea
The U.S. Minerals Management Service has approved Shell Oil's plans to drill up to three oil wells in the Chukchi Sea offshore of Alaska. On January 19, 2010, several environmental groups and an Indigenous People group petitioned for review of this approval in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

This case is entitled Native Village of Point Hope et al. v. Slazar and Minerals Management Service, No. 10-70166. Mr. Salazar is Secretary of the Department of the Interior. MMS is within the Department of the Interior.

The petitioners in the case are Native Village of Point Hope; Alaska Wilderness League; Center for Biological Diversity; Defenders of Wildlife; Natural Resources Defense Council; Northern Alaska Environmental Center; Pacific Environment; Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands; REDOIL; Sierra Club; Oceana; National Audubon Society; and The Wilderness Society.

The petitioners' petition for review is a brief document that does not explain their claims in any detail. Their briefs will explain and argue their claims. The Court has ordered that the petitioners' opening brief is due April 9, 2010. The Government respondents' brief in opposition is due May 10, 2010.

The Alaska Wilderness League issued a press release about this litigation. This press release is available online here . It argues among other things that

    "Secretary Salazar's approval of Shell's drilling also runs directly counter to the other federal agencies' initiatives to manage the region with a science-based approach, including a protective Arctic Fisheries Management Plan adopted by the Department of Commerce."
This press release further argues that Shell's drilling "threatens harm to bowheads [whales], including mothers and calves, walrus, and other marine species and to Alaska Native communities that depend on these species for their subsistence way of life."

We will track the litigation and report on it as new developments warrant.

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