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Native Village of Point Hope v. Salazar

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20114
Nos. Nos. 11-72891, -72943,, (9th Cir., 05/25/2012)

The Ninth Circuit dismissed environmental and Alaska Native groups' petitions challenging the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (BOEM's) approval of an oil company's exploration plan to drill in the Beaufort Sea. BOEM's decision that the company's exploration plan complied with the Outer Continental Shelf Land Act's (OCSLA's) requirements is entitled to deference and is supported by the record as a whole. BOEM's conclusion that well-capping technology is now feasible in the Arctic is supported by substantial evidence in the record. Any inconsistency in the company's prior statements about well-capping technology does not invalidate BOEM's approval of the company's current exploration plan. OCSLA requires industries to adopt the best available and safest technology, which would include technological advances. The company's reassessment, therefore, is consistent with the regulatory scheme. In addition, BOEM's conclusion that the company provided a realistic estimate of the time it would take to drill a relief well is a technical issue that lies squarely within the agency's scientific expertise and is therefore entitled to great deference. And the groups' claim that BOEM impermissibly conditioned its approval is without merit. The conditions at issue here, which require the company to seek additional authorizations before commencing drilling, are consistent with the statutory scheme.