Center for Biological Diversity v. United States Department of the Interior

563 F.3d 466 (2000)

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Center for Biological Diversity v. United States Department of the Interior

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
563 F.3d 466 (2000)

Facts

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) established a procedural framework for the United States Department of the Interior (Interior) (defendant) to lease areas of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)—i.e., submerged land, subsoil, and seabed lying between the outer seaward reaches of a state’s jurisdiction and the United States’ jurisdiction. The leases allowed for exploration and development of oil-and-gas deposits in the OCS’s submerged land. The first step in the OCSLA’s procedural framework required Interior to prepare a five-year schedule for proposed lease sales. Interior was required to ensure that its proposed leasing program considered the economic, social, and environmental values of the OCS’s resources and the impact that oil-and-gas exploration could have on the OCS’s other resource values and the marine, coastal, and human environments. Interior was also required to consider factors relating to the timing and location of oil-and-gas exploration, development, and production in the OCS, including (1) geographical, geological, and ecological characteristics of the affected regions; (2) how to fairly share the environmental risks and developmental benefits across the affected regions; (3) oil-and-gas producers’ interests in developing resources, and (4) the relative environmental sensitivity and marine productivity of different areas of the OCS. Interior was required to ensure that the timing and location of the proposed leases properly balanced the potential for environmental damage, the potential for oil-and-gas discovery, and the potential that the coastal zone could be adversely impacted. In August 2005, Interior prepared a five-year schedule of proposed lease sales for areas in the OCS off the Alaska coast. The Center for Biological Diversity (the center) petitioned for review of Interior’s approval of the leasing program. The center asserted that Interior had violated the OCSLA by considering only the local environmental impacts of the leasing program’s oil-and-gas-production activities and not the global climate-change impacts of the consumption of the oil and gas that would be extracted under the leasing program. The center further asserted that Interior had improperly failed to consider the leasing program’s environmental impacts because Interior had relied solely on one study about shoreline sensitivity to oil spills in ranking the environmental sensitivity of various potential program areas rather than considering the environmental sensitivity of different areas of the OCS as required by the OCSLA.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Sentelle, C.J.)

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