Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Department of the Interior (DOI) violated the law in deciding to hold Lease Sale 193 in the Chukchi Sea. The Court found that DOI acted arbitrarily in evaluating potential impacts to the ocean from selling leases in the Chukchi Sea. Today’s ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by Oceana and a coalition of conservation and Alaska Native partners represented by Earthjustice. This decision marks the second time a court has ruled that DOI failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act in evaluating potential impacts of the nearly 30 million acre offering. It also comes in the wake of Shell’s failed attempts to drill exploration wells in the Arctic Ocean in 2012 on leases it purchased in Lease Sale 193.
Michael LeVine, Oceana’s Pacific Senior Counsel, issued the following statement in response to the decision:
“Today’s decision shows once again that the government can and must do better to meet its obligations as steward of our oceans. We should not have to rely on the courts to make sure that important mandates to protect clean air and water are fulfilled. The slate must be wiped clean, all impacts fully evaluated, and the law given its full effect. Were the government to fully and fairly evaluate the potential risks and benefits, it would decide not to sell oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea at this time.
The Obama administration once again has the opportunity to chart a new course for the Arctic Ocean. For the sake of the communities and wildlife in the region, and for all of us who care about oceans, energy, and good government, we encourage the Administration to take responsible action. As Shell unfortunately demonstrated in 2012, business as usual is not good enough in the Arctic. We all deserve more.”