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Gulf Restoration Network, Inc. v. Salazar

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20121
Nos. Nos. 10-60411 et al., (5th Cir., 05/30/2012)

The Fifth Circuit dismissed environmental groups' petitions challenging DOI's approval of 16 oil well exploration and development plans that were issued between March 29 and May 20, 2010, under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). The groups argued that the agency failed to consider the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in approving further deepwater drilling and that it incorrectly applied categorical exclusions to those plans under NEPA because they involved drilling in "relatively untested deep water," "areas of high biological sensitivity," "areas of high seismic risk or seismicity," or "areas of hazardous natural bottom conditions." But 4 of the 16 petitions were moot because the challenged plans were either cancelled or superseded by a new one. And the remaining claims were dismissed because the groups failed to participate in the administrative proceedings. The groups argued that they should be excused from this requirement because DOI placed the information in an obscure location on its website, making it difficult to find. But the groups have not shown that DOI's actions or omissions caused their failure to participate in the administrative proceedings, as required by 43 U.S.C. §1349(c)(3), in order to subject the approvals to judicial review.