Federal judge dismisses request to end delay in issuance of drilling permits

[JURIST] A federal judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] on Thursday dismissed a request by the Ensco Offshore Company [official website] to end an alleged delay in the issuance of drilling permits. US District Judge Martin Feldman [Judgepedia profile] said it is unclear if the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) [official website] must process drilling requests within a certain amount of time [AP report]. Earlier this week, ENSCO sought a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] in connection with a lawsuit [text, PDF] the company filed last year against the moratorium on issuing drilling permits, which would have compelled the US Department of Interior (DOI) [official website] to "expeditiously" process five pending permit applications the company has filed. Ensco told the court that although the moratorium, which was enacted after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], had been lifted [JURIST report] officials continue to unreasonably delay action on deepwater drilling permit applications. Although part of Ensco's lawsuit was dismissed in November [Bloomberg report], complaints regarding the issuance of permits were allowed to proceed. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] denies there are delays [AP report] and say that the additional time is due to new safety precautions to which the DOI must adhere.

In December, the DOJ filed suit [complaint text; press release] against units of British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] and several other companies over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill [JURIST report]. In September, a federal judge denied [JURIST report] the government's motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by several drilling companies challenging the offshore drilling moratorium. The judge held that there were "no substantial changes" between the July 12 directive and its predecessor, issued on May 28, that the new moratorium did nothing to amend or prevent the wrongs found in the first and that the wrongful behavior alleged in the original order could reasonably be expected to occur as a result of the more recent iteration. The US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana rejected a request to reinstate the May 28 ban in July, weeks after the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit similarly declined [JURIST reports]. The DOJ originally asked the appeals court to stay the preliminary injunction [JURIST report] in June, on the basis that another deepwater spill could overwhelm the ongoing efforts to clean up the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill with catastrophic results. Lawyers for the DOJ also claimed that the district judge abused his discretion in issuing the injunction. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which occurred in April of last year, resulted in an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.

 

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