Environmentalists have filed a lawsuit in Washington, DC, challenging the Interior Department’s final 2012-2017 plan for Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and natural gas leasing, which focuses primarily on the the Gulf of Mexico and potentially offshore areas in Alaska.

Sante Fe, NM-based Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE) filed the lawsuit in the U.S. Court for the District of Columbia Circuit, arguing that an incomplete and flawed economic analysis led the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) to rush ahead with new offshore leases that may not be economically justified in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and Administrative Procedure Act. By allegedly rushing ahead, it contends that the BOEM has subjected the American public to a higher risk of catastrophic spills while failing to maximize benefits from lease sales.

“Oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf is a precious strategic reserve…and should only be developed when and if it makes compelling economic sense to do so. Instead, the Obama administration is rushing headlong into a program that will put our shores and oceans [at] risk and do nothing at all for America’s energy security,” said CSE President John Talberth.

Attorneys at the University of New York’s Institute for Policy Integrity filed the lawsuit on behalf of CSE.

The final OCS plan, which was released in June, is the first OCS program to be issued since the blowout of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) in 2010 (see Daily GPI, June 29). It proposes 15 lease sales in six offshore areas, three of which are in the GOM, including the Western and Central GOM, and the portion of the Eastern GOM not currently under a Congressional moratorium (see Daily GPI, Dec. 2, 2010).

The program also has scheduled three potential lease sales in offshore Alaska: Cook Inlet, Chukchi Sea in 2016 and Beaufort Sea. No sales are scheduled for the Atlantic or Pacific Coasts.

The BOEM estimates that the five-year leasing plan has the potential to produce 5.75 to 14.3 billion boe of oil and gas. This amounts to roughly four to 10 months of U.S. energy consumption from all sources, BOEM said.

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