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08/06/2009

Federal Court Clarifies Offshore Drilling Halt: Decision Applies Only to Alaska

Two weeks ago, the Minerals Management Service announced that it would go ahead with an August lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico despite legal uncertainty.  The federal court responsible for the original decision has provided clarification by saying that the only lease sales which could not proceed were those that were scheduled in Alaska.

The court's original ruling back in April concluded that there had not been proper environmental review regarding lease sales in the Bering, Beaufort, and Chukchi Seas.  Amidst uncertainty whether that ruling applied to the entire 5-year leasing program, and thus all lease across the country, the Interior Department asked the D.C. Federal Court of Appeals for clarification.  Now that clarification has come and the MMS can continue under the current 5-year leasing programs for the entire continental United States.  Regarding the Alaskan leases, the Department of the Interior must report back to the court every 60 days to update it on the status of the environmental reviews being undertaken.

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