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Alaska v. Jewell

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20140
Nos. 3:14-cv-00048, (D. Alaska, 07/21/2015) (Gleason, J.)

A district court denied Alaska's request for a court order directing DOI to review the state's plan for the exploration of oil and gas resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). When Congress enacted the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in 1980, it authorized the Secretary to approve limited-duration exploratory activities on a 1.5 million-acre area within ANWR known as the "coastal plain." DOI submitted a report generated from these exploratory activities in 1987, as required by the statute. In 2013, Alaska submitted an exploration plan and special use application to DOI under ANILCA, but DOI denied review. The state argued that the DOI Secretary has an ongoing obligation under ANILCA to evaluate and approve exploration plans submitted to her for approval. But the court agreed with DOI that no such obligation exists. Whether the statute authorizes or requires the Secretary to approve additional exploration after the submission of the 1987 report is ambiguous. Here, the Secretary's interpretation that her statutory authority and obligation to review and approve exploration plans ceased after the 1987 report had been completed is based on a permissible and reasonable construction of the statute. The court, therefore, upheld DOI's interpretation and denial of review.