Texas is suing the federal government over its deepwater drilling moratorium, alleging that under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) affected states must be consulted by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) before such a measure is taken.

“The federal government ignored the state of Texas and failed to comply with the law when the secretary of the Interior unilaterally imposed the administration’s offshore drilling ban,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said. “Under federal law, affected states are guaranteed the right to participate in offshore drilling-related policy decisions, but the Obama administration did not bother to communicate, coordinate or cooperate with Texas. Worse, the secretary of the Interior failed to consider the economic consequences of his decision, which will cost the Texas economy millions of dollars and threatens far too many hard-working Texans’ jobs.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas names DOI; DOI Secretary Kenneth Salazar; the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM); and BOEM Director Michael Bromwich. Bromwich recently indicated that the moratorium could be lifted early, telling reporters that his preference would be to lift the moratorium as soon as he “felt comfortable” that sufficient safety precautions were in place (see Daily GPI, Aug. 5). The moratorium’s current expiration date is Nov. 30.

Under OCSLA the Interior secretary must coordinate with affected states and weigh a moratorium’s economic impact before imposing an offshore drilling ban, Texas maintains.

The challenge targets the administration’s second offshore drilling moratorium. The first was retracted by the administration after multiple private parties successfully sued to block it. On July 12 Salazar announced the current moratorium “without any prior notice to or communication with the state of Texas — despite the fact that Texas refines more oil than any other state,” Abbott’s office said.

“As the state’s complaint explains, an economic impact analysis produced by Louisiana State University has projected that Texas will suffer a $622 million decrease in gross state product because of the six-month moratorium. Thus, Texas clearly meets the statutory definition of an ‘affected state’ under the OCSLA. Nonetheless, the Department of the Interior did not give the State of Texas an ‘opportunity to participate’ in the federal government’s decision-making process, which constitutes a violation of the OCSLA and the Administrative Procedure Act.”

The Railroad Commission of Texas also has attacked the offshore moratorium for trampling on states’ rights (see Daily GPI, Aug. 12).

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