An environmental group, the Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE), has filed a lawsuit challenging the offshore exploration plans of the US administration in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaskan waters.
CSE joined hands with a non-partisan advocacy organisation, Institute for Policy Integrity (IPI), to fight against the government’s new Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017, which is the first auction after the BP oil spill disaster.
As part of the five-year programme, the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has unleased several new fields in November 2012 for oil and gas exploration in the outer continental shelf (OCS), offshore of Texas.
The lawsuit filed by CSE in the United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia objected to BOEM’s decision regarding the leases, contending that the economic analysis behind the programme is flawed and incomplete.
Environmental attorney Steven Sugarman represented CSE in the lawsuit, while executive director Michael Livermore represented IPI at New York University School of Law.
CSE is arguing that the bureau rushed to open up leases and violated the National Environmental Policy Act, Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and Administrative Procedure Act, meaning the auction is economically unjustified.
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CSE president and senior economist, Dr. John Talberth, said that the precious oil and gas reserves on the outer continental shelf should be developed only if it makes compelling economic sense.
"Instead, the Obama Administration is rushing headlong into a programme that will put our shores and oceans and risk and do nothing at all for America’s energy security," Talberth added.
The CSE also says in the lawsuit that BOEM’s failure to account for not waiting to auction off offshore leases puts the American public at a higer risk of spills while failing to maximise profits.
Livermore said: "BOEM’s failure to account for the billions of dollars in benefits associated with waiting to sell ultra-deep water leases has led the agency to value wasteful consumption now over future returns."
The lawsuit also alleged that nearly 35 ultra-deep leases within the new leasing programme call for exploration in waters that are deeper than those involved in BP’s Deepwater Horizon.
Sgarman said: "Key factors were ignored by BOEM including the massive uncertainty associated with the potential for deepwater drilling disasters, the current glut in gas production, record US fuel exports and the fact that millions of acres of existing leases are idle".
Image: Sediment in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo courtesy of Norman Kuring, Nasa.