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Cook Inletkeeper v. Raimondo

ELR Citation: 51 ELR 20056
Nos. 3:19-cv-00238-SLG, (D. Alaska, 03/30/2021) (Gleason, J.)

A district court granted in part and denied in part environmental groups' motion for summary judgment in a challenge to incidental take regulations promulgated by NMFS that authorized certain oil and gas exploration and production activities in Cook Inlet. The groups argued that NMFS violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) by ignoring beluga whale take caused by vessels and by failing to require sufficient mitigation and monitoring, violated the ESA by failing to properly consider in its biological opinion (BiOp) the full effects of the authorized activities on survival and recovery of the whale species, and violated NEPA by failing to properly consider in its EA the direct impacts of noise from tugboats and other vessels and the cumulative effects of the take authorization. The court found that the Service required sufficient mitigation and monitoring measures for seismic surveying, but concluded that its determination that noise from tugboats towing the drill rig would not cause any take by harassment of the whale species was arbitrary and capricious, and that it relied on this erroneous determination in its issuance of the incidental take regulations, the BiOp, and the EA. It therefore granted in part and denied in part the groups' motion for summary judgment.