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API Accuses Interior of Dragging Its Feet on Alaska OCS Analysis

The American Petroleum Institute (API) Thursday accused the Department of Justice (DOJ) of again missing a filing deadline for a court-ordered analysis of the potential environmental impacts of leasing in the Alaska Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

"We are disappointed MMS [Minerals Management Service] has again missed a deadline to provide the court with the analysis it ordered last April. This will delay investment decisions, delay the production of much-needed oil and natural gas and delay the creation of much-needed jobs," said API President Jack Gerard. DOJ is acting on behalf of the MMS, an agency of the Interior Department. Interior denied missing court-ordered deadlines.

In an April 2009 decision, the D.C. Circuit Court ordered the MMS to conduct a more complete analysis of the potential environmental impacts of leasing in the Alaska OCS areas (see NGI, April 20, 2009).

API contends that MMS has missed two deadlines to submit an environmental analysis of the five-year (2007-2012) plan on leasing in the Alaska OCS. In its latest letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Interior said that "despite its best efforts, it no longer expects to be able to complete these internal analyses by Feb. 26. Interior now expects to complete the analyses before March 29." Early last year MMS announced that this work would be done by the end of summer 2009, according to API.

Gerard called on the Obama administration to "eliminate these delays to domestic economic and energy prosperity and move forward as soon as possible with leasing in Alaska and other areas of the OCS."

Interior spokesman Frank Quimby said the Feb. 26 deadline was a "self-imposed deadline" rather than a court-ordered one. He added that he didn't know what other deadline to which API was referring.

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