Judge Hears Arguments on Gulf Leases

Wednesday, August 09, 2006
A judge on August 8 did not immediately rule on a request by Gov. Kathleen Blanco to block an upcoming sale of federal natural gas and oil leases in the western Gulf of Mexico. The lawsuit seeks to stop the Minerals Management Service from selling 4,000 blocks of ocean bottoms on August 16. The suit claims that the federal government has not done enough to ensure that offshore drilling does not do unacceptable environmental damage to Louisiana's wetlands. Blanco's lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Kurt Englehardt for a temporary injunction to stop the sale, but Englehardt took the case under advisement and said he would rule on on August 11 or August 14. He gave no indication how he might rule. The legal dispute is also playing out as Blanco and Louisiana's congressional delegation demand that the state receive a larger share of royalties for oil and natural gas produced in the Gulf. The state now receives less than 2 percent of the royalties from federal offshore leases, and says it needs more money to fix its quickly eroding coast. Both the Senate and House have passed bills that would give Louisiana and other Gulf states more- 37.5 percent under the Senate bill, 50 to 75 percent under the House bill. Those differences are to be worked out among Senate and House negotiators. (Source: Houston Chronicle)

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