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January 11, 2005 --- Vol. 11, No. 2January 2005

Environmentalists lose NW NPR-A lawsuit; exploration can move forward

The U.S. District Court for Alaska has ruled against the Northern Alaska Environmental Center and other plaintiffs that filed a 2004 lawsuit challenging Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton’s decision to open the Northwest National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to oil and gas leasing.

The 22 page decision, released Jan. 10, concludes that Interior’s actions were not “not arbitrary and capricious” as alleged by the environmental center because the cumulative impact analysis by Interior “considered a reasonable range of alternatives and gave sufficient consideration to reasonably foreseeable alternatives.”

Further the court found that the department’s biological opinion, which was also criticized by the environmental center, “reasonably discussed the entire agency action as contemplated by the ROD (Record of Decision) and accurately and sufficiently accounted for the distribution of eiders.”

The court denied the environmental center’s request for a declaratory judgment against the Integrated Activity Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, as well as its request for a declaratory judgment against the biological opinion.

Judge James Singleton’s decision lifts the restriction he put on leases won by companies in last year’s Bureau of Land Management Northwest NPR-A oil and gas lease sale.

“The judge put a restriction on any seismic or surface-disturbing activities after the lawsuit was filed. That has been lifted. The companies can now proceed” with exploration of those leases, BLM spokeswoman Jody Weil told Petroleum News this morning.

Note: See the full story in the Jan. 16 edition of Petroleum News.

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