US court strikes down Chukchi Sea EIS

January 23, 2014

Point Hope & Chukchi Sea map; modified from New York TimesA US court ruling has put a key document supporting oil major Shell's Chukchi Sea drilling in doubt.

Over one partial objection, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (CA9, panel based in San Francisco) ruled that selection by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEM) of 1 billion bbl of oil as the benchmark for analyzing the environmental impact of proposed leases for oil and gas development in the Chukchi Sea was arbitrary and capricious.

Plaintiff, Native Village of Point Hope, sued the US Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, alleging that the final environmental impact statements (EIS) supporting the leases offered in Lease Sale 193 violated the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

The court held that the impact statements properly took account of incomplete or unavailable information, but that reliance on a 1 billion bbl estimate of total economically recoverable oil was improper.  The case was remanded for further proceedings.  Native Village of Point Hope et al. v. Sally Jewell, et al., No. 12-35287 (9th Cir., January 22, 2014).

The panel of circuit judges included William A. Fletcher (author of opinion); Ferdinand F. Fernandez; and Johnnie B. Rawlinson.

Excerpt, regarding the partial objection: "Judge Rawlinson concurred in part and dissented in part. Judge Rawlinson agreed with most of the majority opinion, but she did not agree that the federal [BOEMRE] acted arbitrarily in selecting 1 billion bbl of oil as the benchmark for analyzing the environmental affects of the proposed leases."

Tikiġaq, or Point Hope is located on the western coast of the Arctic Slope region. Point Hope peninsula is a large gravel spit that forms the western-most extension of the northwest Alaska coast, 330 miles southwest of Barrow, and nearly 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

The Native Village of Point Hope is a federally recognized tribal government.

Tikiġaq Corp. is the village corporation established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Act of 1971. Tikiġaq Corp. owns approximately 138,000ac of surface lands in and around the community.



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