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Oceana v. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

Citation: 44 ELR 20070
No. 12-0981, (D.D.C., 03/31/2014) (Contreras, J.)

A district court, in a memorandum opinion, dismissed environmental groups' lawsuit against the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for APA, NEPA, and ESA violations in connection with two lease sales in the area where the Deepwater Horizon spill occurred. Specifically, the groups argued that BOEM violated NEPA by failing to take a “hard look” at the environmental impacts of the lease sales and by failing to consider a no action alternative in its 2012 supplemental EIS (SEIS). But BOEM complied with the relevant regulations, incorporated all the new data it had into the SEIS, considered the effects of deepwater drilling, accounted for impacts of an assumed catastrophic oil spill, and considered a true no action alterative. It therefore took a “hard look” at the effects of the spill in the 2012 SEIS. The groups also argued that BOEM violated the ESA by failing to insure against jeopardy to listed species in issuing the leases. But BOEM did not violate the ESA because it relied on the best available science, it took action to insure no-jeopardy, and its actions were not tantamount to an irreversible and irretrievable commitment of resources, negating the need to complete its consultation with NMFS before proceeding with the lease sales. Last, the groups argued that NMFS violated the APA by unreasonably delaying the issuance of the biological opinion following the oil spill. But in light of the amount of information the agencies must process and analyze, the complexity of the issues, the coordination between several agencies, and the limited resources available to them, NMFS' delay has been reasonable.