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Alaska Eskimo Whaling Comm'n v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20127
Nos. 13-70633, (9th Cir., 06/29/2015)

The Ninth Circuit granted in part and denied in part a petition challenging an NPDES permit authorizing oil and gas exploration facilities' discharge of 13 waste streams into the Beaufort Sea. The petition was filed by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, which represents Alaska Native villages that engage in subsistence hunting of bowhead whales. The commission did not seek to have the permit vacated; rather, it sought additional restrictions on the permitted discharges. The court granted the petition on one issue on which EPA had admitted an error in the record. On remand, EPA must determine whether the discharge of non-contact cooling water (alone or in combination with other authorized discharges) into the Beaufort Sea will cause unreasonable degradation of the marine environment because of the effect that discharge will have on bowhead whales, including deflection from their migratory paths. But the court denied the petition in all other respects, because EPA's issuance of the permit was otherwise supported by the record evidence, did not reflect a failure to consider an important aspect of the problem, and was not otherwise arbitrary or capricious.