Jenner & Block

Environmental Group Sues Department of Interior Over Offshore Drilling Approval

 Torrence_Allison_COLORBy Allison A. Torrence

On May 17, 2010, Defenders of Wildlife filed a lawsuit against the Minerals Management Service (“MMS”), the Department of the Interior (“DOI”) and Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, in Federal District Court.  The lawsuit alleges that MMS, DOI and Salazar violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) when MMS approved BP’s Exploration Plan for the Deepwater Horizon exploratory drilling operation (“Deepwater Horizon Plan”).  Deepwater Horizon is the site of the April 20, 2010, explosion and continuing release of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Under NEPA, federal agencies must prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) for all “major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”  42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C).  The NEPA regulations allow for a “categorical exclusion” for categories of actions which “do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment.”  40 C.F.R. § 1508.4.  Defenders of Wildlife is alleging that MMS violated NEPA by granting a categorical exclusion from NEPA review to BP’s Deepwater Horizon Plan, thereby bypassing the EIS requirement.  Defenders of Wildlife also alleges that since the explosion at the BP Deepwater Horizon site on April 20, 2010, MMS has granted over twenty categorical exclusions from NEPA review for other exploratory wells and drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Click here to view the Defenders of Wildlife complaint.

TAGS: Water

PEOPLE: Allison A. Torrence