Alaska Wilderness League v. Jewell

788 F.3d 1212 (2015)

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Alaska Wilderness League v. Jewell

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
788 F.3d 1212 (2015)

  • Written by Tanya Munson, JD

Facts

Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. and Shell Offshore Inc. (Shell) secured leases to develop offshore oil and gas resources in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas on Alaska’s Arctic coast. The Clean Water Act (CWA) mandated oil-spill contingency planning. The president was required to promulgate regulations that required owners and operators to submit oil-spill response plans (OSRPs) for responding to the worst-case discharge of oil or a hazardous substance. The secretary of the Interior delegated the responsibility of reviewing and approving OSRPs to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). The CWA stated that operators were required to submit a plan for responding to the maximum extent practicable to a worst-case discharge. The CWA also listed requirements that operators were required to meet. BSEE was required to approve any OSRP that met the statutory requirements. Shell submitted OSRPs for its offshore leases, and the OSRPs were approved by BSEE. Alaska Wilderness League and other environmental groups (the environmental groups) (plaintiffs) sued the secretary of the Interior and the Department of the Interior under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), challenging BSEE’s approval of Shell’s OSRPs. Shell intervened. The environmental groups claimed that the BSEE was required under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to consult with the appropriate environmental agencies before approving Shell’s OSRPs. The environmental groups also argued that the BSEE was required to produce an environmental-impact statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the government and Shell. The environmental groups appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Nguyen, J.)

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