Texas sues feds over offshore drilling ban

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 12, 2010, 10:24am

HOUSTON (Legal Newsline) - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sued President Barack Obama's administration on Wednesday over its new deepwater offshore drilling moratorium.

Abbott claims the moratorium is unjustified and that federal officials did not contact the state before issuing the ban.

Abbott filed the suit in federal court in Houston against the U.S. Department of the Interior, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement -- formerly known as the Minerals Management Service -- and BOEM Director Michael Bromwich.

"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," Abbott said in a statement.

"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."

It is at least the third time the state of Texas has sued the federal government in recent months. The first two suits are against the Environmental Protection Agency.

Abbott argues the administration failed to consider the mortatorium's economic impact on the Gulf Coast states, including Texas.

He said under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Interior Secretary must coordinate with those affected states and weigh the impact of such a ban. "Despite the OCSLA's requirements, the Obama Administration did not consult with Texas on either issue," Abbott's office said.

Texas, the attorney general argues, refines more oil than any other state.

According to an economic impact analysis produced by Louisiana State University, and cited in Abbott's complaint, Texas will suffer a $622 million decrease in Gross State Product because of the six-month moratorium.

The ban halted the approval of any new permits for deepwater projects and shut down drilling at 33 exploratory ocean wells in the wake of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

An explosion and fire occurred on Transocean's drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, licensed to BP, on April 20, killing 11 workers and resulting in the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

An Interior Department spokeswoman defended the ban to The Associated Press but declined to comment on the Texas lawsuit.

The current moratorium replaced one that was blocked by the courts. The ban is in effect until Nov. 30, unless federal officials determine that safety has improved in deepwater drilling operations.

Also Wednesday, the Justice Department asked Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans, who overturned the initial moratorium, to throw out a challenge filed by several offshore service companies to the first ban, arguing that it is moot now that the new ban is in place.

Feldman told the AP he would not make an immediate decision.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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Louisiana State University
110 Thomas Boyd
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20460

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