One would think that after the Deepwater Horizon spill and all of the ensuing litigation, courts might be a little wary of authorizing exploratory drilling missions in the Gulf of Mexico. But one would have another think coming, as the 11th Circuit on Friday threw out a petition seeking to stop Shell Oil from drilling in 10 exploratory wells off the coast of Alabama.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management had initially approved Shell’s plan, but Defenders of Wildlife and Gulf Restoration Network challenged that decision, saying that the exploratory drilling violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
In the first challenge to such a plan since Deepwater Horizon, the court found that Shell’s plan met NEPA’s requirements, and that since the probability of an oil spill was only 0.07 percent, the plan did not violate the ESA either.
“It was very disappointing because we feel that the catastrophic nature of the results, which we now know thanks to Deepwater Horizon, were not taken into account,” Monica Reimer, representation for the petitioners, told the Wall Street Journal.
A Shell spokesperson said, “We are pleased with the court’s ruling on the Appomattox Exploration Plan and believe that the court reached the right result.”
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