An Alabama federal court has refused to dismiss an environment group’s lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) approved oil and gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico before assessing the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Defenders of Wildlife v. BOEMRE, No. 10-0254 (S.D. Ala. 5/23/11). Plaintiffs argued that BOEMRE failed to modify its policies and practices regarding offshore oil and gas leasing operations in the Gulf following the April 2010 accident and spill in violation of NEPA and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The complaint alleged that the government failed to reanalyze facts about oil spills and the risks they pose, accepted lease bids submitted by oil and gas companies after the spill in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, and failed to protect species pursuant to ESA. In allowing the lawsuit to proceed, the court dismissed a claim that BOEMRE failed to prepare supplemental multilease sale environmental impact statements and another that the agency failed to reinitiate consultation under ESA. A trial date has not yet been set.