DNR Secretary Angelle Says Court Fight to Protect Jobs and Domestic Energy Continues
Federal Court of Appeals hears oral arguments in suit filed to stop Shell exploration plan in Gulf federal waters; Louisiana led other Gulf states to intervene in case
BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary Scott Angelle noted today that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit heard oral arguments Wednesday in an attempt by several environmental groups to reverse federal regulatory issuance in May 2011 of a Gulf of Mexico deepwater exploration plan approved nearly a full year after the declaration of a deepwater drilling moratorium in May 2010.
“Some of the demands issued in this suit would push regulation of the offshore energy industry to the point of strangulation of that industry, as well as the jobs, economic opportunities and domestic energy production provided by Gulf exploration,” Angelle said. “Regulation of the energy industry must be an appropriate balance of maintaining safe operations, while allowing for development of our resources. I am hopeful that this hearing was a step towards a positive conclusion to this case for the communities and working people of the Gulf Coast who depend on a robust and responsible offshore industry.”
The groups filed suit against federal regulators in June 2011, asking the 11th Circuit to reverse the approval for a Shell Offshore supplemental Exploration Plan (EP) seeking to expand an already existing EP – and calling for the setting of precedent of a level of regulation that would effectively halt the offshore energy exploration industry and further threaten jobs and local economies for years to come.
Attorneys representing the federal Bureau of Energy Management (BOEM), the states of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi; as well as the Shell Offshore, were present for oral arguments on the case before a panel of judges. The 11th Circuit has not given a timetable for final ruling on the suit.
The Shell EP in question is for a field lying within federal waters designated as Alabama’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) area, that is also within 72 miles of Louisiana’s coast. The plan lays out a significant amount of drilling activity and anticipates making use of Louisiana support facilities, as well as some Mississippi assets.
Angelle, who had been tasked by Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2010 to be the state’s point person in working through ongoing regulatory and permitting issues that followed the deepwater drilling ban, recommended that the state of Louisiana intervene in the suit on the side of the federal government and led the effort to bring the other two affected Gulf Coast states – Alabama and Mississippi – to do the same.
“In just the past week we have seen the highest level of drilling rig activity in the federal waters of the Louisiana OCS, with 41 rigs drilling, since the moratorium was declared around this time in 2010, but still have not reached the level of activity we saw in the months before that moratorium,” Angelle said. “While the rest of the nation has experienced a near-tripling in the average number of rigs drilling for oil since that time, we are still working to bring the Gulf of Mexico – which had been the No.1 oil-producing province in the nation – back to where it was two years ago. It is critical that we remain involved and focused on issues that could further delay recovery of our domestic offshore energy industry and the thousands of jobs and companies, both large and small, that it supports.”
“After a robust process to increase safety and environmental standards for offshore exploration and drilling, the oil and gas industry has worked aggressively to comply with the new standards and now is not the time to halt the Gulf Coast’s ability to fuel America. It took more than 300 days from the Deepwater Horizon event for the first exploration plan to be approved and after an excruciating process for the thousands of workers in the oil and gas industry, we have finally started to get back to work.
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