By R. Lee Vail
Deepwater oil and gas production from the Gulf of Mexico has become a significant portion of the current production within the United States, equal to over 1.6 million barrels per day of oil equivalent; total U.S oil production is around 5.3 million barrels per day. (1) Worldwide shallow water oil production peaked around the year 2000 whereas worldwide deep water production has risen to around 5 million barrels per day. On May 10, 2011, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (“BOEMRE”) approved Royal Dutch Shell’s Exploration Plan S-0744 to better define discoveries announced in 2009 and 2010. (2)
Several environmental groups filed suit in an attempt to block the approved plan. Gulf Restoration Network, Inc., Florida Wildlife Federation, and Sierra Club Inc. filed a petition on June 8, 2011, in the United States Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit, in an attempt to set aside BOEMRE’s approval of the plan. The allegations in the petition are relatively general, alleging violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) (i.e., for BOEMRE’s alleged failure to appropriately conduct the required environmental assessments and/or impact statements) and further alleging elements required pursuant to 43 U.S.C §1349(c) necessary to maintain the suit under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”).