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Massachusetts v. Andrus

Citation: 9 ELR 20764
No. No. 78-1086, 481 F. Supp. 685/13 ERC 1857/(D. Mass., 11/05/1979) Preliminary injunction denied

The court denies plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction restraining the Secretary of the Interior from receiving or opening bids for outer continental shelf (OCS) oil and gas leases in the Georges Bank fishing region of the Atlantic Ocean. First addressing the question of immediate and irreparable injury, the court acknowledges that while tangible environmental harm will not occur until exploratory drilling begins, immediate and irreparable injury may nevertheless occur as a result of acceptance of bids prior to the promulgation of environmentally protective regulations governing OCS activities. However, plaintiffs have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their legal claims.The environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared for the sale appears to be adequate under the "rule of reason" standard. There was no need for the EIS to contain an exhaustive analysis of the Bay of Campeche oil spill, and the statement discussed the possible designation of the Georges Bank area as a marine sanctuary in sufficient detail to obviate the preparation of an EIS on the same topic by the Department of Commerce. The lease sale does not represent an irreversible commitment of resources which may endanger the right and humpback whales and thus violate the Endangered Species Act because the Secretary has full authority to cancel the leases at any time. Finally, the court dismisses the asserted violations of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the common law, which were alleged collectively to forbid the Secretary from taking any action which poses undue risk to the Georges Bank area. Deeming it apparent that the Secretary will continue to regulate and supervise OCS drilling activities, the court finds that judicial intervention into the administrative process would be inappropriate.

Counsel for Plaintiffs Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Jose R. Allen, Ass't Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General, Environmental Division
1 Ashburton Place, Boston MA 12108
(617) 727-2265

Counsel for Plaintiffs Conservation Law Foundation of New England, Inc.
Douglas I. Foy
3 Joy St., Boston MA 02114
(617) 742-2540

Counsel for Defendants
Irwin Schroeder, William Bryant Morrison, John J. Zimmerman
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2808

Kenneth Nasif, Ass't U.S. Attorney
1107 John W. McCormack P.O. & Cthse., Boston MA 02109
(617) 223-3181

Counsel for Intervenors Atlantic Richfield Co. et al.
G. Marshall Moriarty, John C. Kane, Jr.
Ropes & Gray
225 Franklin St., Boston MA 12110
(617) 423-6100