Offshore leasing delay not apply to Gulf, court rules

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit clarified its prior decision blocking the government’s five-year Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas exploration leasing plan, saying it only applied to leases in Alaskan waters. That means plans for more lease sales off Texas and Louisiana can move forward.
The court’s ruling earlier this year that said the Bush administration hadn’t conducted adequate environmental review of the exploration impact in the Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi Arctic Seas. The decision appeared at first to cancel the five-year leasing plan for the entire Outer Continental Shelf, but the Department of the Interior asked for clarification.
Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who has been holding public hearings on expanded drilling, said he was pleased with the decision:

” Consistent with the Department’s request, the Court clarified that its prior ruling only applies to the Chukchi, Beaufort and Bering Seas. We are moving forward with the planned August 19th Gulf of Mexico lease sale.”
“With respect to the Arctic Ocean and Alaska, we will continue to work expeditiously to address the environmental issues identified by the Court in the existing 2007-2012 5-year plan.”

The American Petroleum Institute concurs:

“Offshore oil and gas leasing under the program is responsible for thousands of well-paying American jobs, over $10 billion in much-needed revenue for federal, state and local governments … We encourage the Department of Interior to move quickly to re-do the environmental sensitivity analysis and maintain all scheduled past and future leasing in Alaska so that exploration and production activity and future leases sales under the 2007-2012 plan can take place in that state, home of vast oil and natural gas resources.”

But with or without the clarification, efforts to expand offshore drilling have been moving forward. Environmentalists (and just about everyone in Florida, it seems) are fighting this tooth-and-nail and pointing to incidents such as this and this to bolster their argument.