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Defenders of Wildlife v. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20101
Nos. 10-0254-WS-C, (S.D. Ala., 05/08/2012) (Steele, J.)

A district court held that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) did not violate NEPA or the ESA when it accepted over 300 bids for oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon disaster. An environmental group argued that the agency was obligated under both the ESA and NEPA to suspend the bid approval process for the drilling leases until it consulted with expert agencies and performed a supplemental analysis of the environmental effects. But BOEMRE’s decision to continue approving bids did not violate §7(a)(2) of ESA. Specifically, the group failed to meet its burden of showing that BOEMRE’s determination that approving the bids was not likely to jeopardize the existence of any listed species or their critical habitat, without the benefit of reinitiated consultation, was arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of its discretion. Similarly, the group failed to meet its burden of showing that BOEMRE violated its obligations under NEPA by continuing to approve bids in the immediate aftermath of the spill. Nothing about the Deepwater Horizon spill suggests that BOEMRE’s approval of bids and issuance of leases, without more, would affect the human environment in a manner or to an extent not fully addressed within the original EIS.