Administration to Proceed with Gulf Drilling Despite Legal Uncertainty
The U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) is planning to go ahead with an August 19th lease sale in the western Gulf of Mexico. The sale will cover 18 million acres off the coast of Texas and lies anywhere from nine to 250 miles offshore. This announcement comes at a time of uncertainty as to whether planned offshore lease sales could proceed after a court case blocked lease sales in Alaska.
That decision was handed down by a federal appeals court this past April and challenged the MMS's 2007-2012 Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Program. The decision specifically addressed the lack of proper environmental review for the leasing areas in Alaska's Bering, Beaufort, and Chukchi Seas but many experts agreed that the case invalidated the entire leasing program.
It appears that the Department of the Interior doesn't agree, however, as it intends to go forward with this lease sale. Despite being in an area that was not covered by the Congressional moratorium that expired last year, this sale is a mistake. The court decision clearly called into question the environmental review process for a 5-year program that was pushed through by the Bush administration as it was leaving office.