Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Ensco Offshore Co. v. Salazar

ELR Citation: 41 ELR 20138
Nos. No. 10-1941, (E.D. La., 04/06/2011) Sumary judgment granted in part and denied in part

A district court, on cross-motions for summary judgment, upheld a DOI regulation requiring oil lessees to obtain drilling permits for development and production drilling but denied both motions as to a DOI regulation setting forth new requirements for drilling in the western Gulf of Mexico. Oil drill operators argued that the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) authorizes a permit requirement only in connection with exploration drilling pursuant to an approved exploration plan. But OCSLA imbues Interior with the authority to enact regulations that inextricably intertwine with drilling in the development and production phase. This broad authority justifies the conclusion that the agency's construction of OCSLA is not unreasonable. The court, however, could not grant the government's or the operator's motion for summary judgment with regard to a DOI regulation requiring operators to prepare "development operations coordination documents" (DOCDs) in connection with development and production activities in the western Gulf of Mexico. The operators argue that the regulation requires them to prepare what is known as a "development and production plan," which, they allege, may be imposed only in the Florida Gulf. The operators' as-applied challenge posits that the government has intentionally used the DOCD requirement to delay drilling in the western Gulf. The question of intentional delay presents an issue of material fact that cannot be resolved at this stage of the litigation.