On July 28, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals clarified its April 17 decision regarding the 5-Year Oil and Gas Lease Plan. The court has established that the Minerals Management Service must properly consider the relative environmental sensitivity and marine productivity of different areas of the OCS under Section 18(a)(2)(G), and strike a proper balance incorporating environmental and coastal zone factors under Section 18 (a)(3) for Alaska only, specifically leasing in the Chukchi, Beaufort and Bering Seas.
In effect, the Court has upheld the 5-Year Oil and Gas Leasing Plan for areas outside Alaska, which provides welcomed certainty for operations and lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico.
As for the Alaska OCS, the court has ordered the Department of the Interior to notify the court when it completes the required analysis and to file status reports with the court within 60 days and every 60 days thereafter in the interim. After the completion of the analyses, the litigants will have 30 days to file motions which will determine the future of the litigation.
"The decision allows the government to promptly complete its analysis of the Alaska OCS, which NOIA strongly encourages so that hopefully the same certainty granted to Gulf operations and leasing by this decision can be granted to the Alaska OCS," said Tom Fry, President of the National Ocean Industries Association.