NGOs have sued the Federal Government in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. They claim that BOEM violated NEPA, the ESA, and the APA when BOEM decided to move forward with oil and gas Lease Sale 216/222 in the Gulf of Mexico based on a 2012 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, and without first concluding ongoing reinitiated consultation under the ESA. The Plaintiffs also challenge Lease Sale 218, based solely upon their ESA argument. Finally, the Plaintiffs contend that NMFS has unreasonably delayed completion of the ongoing reinitiated consultation under the ESA, in violation of the APA.
The Federal Government defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment in the case, and a reply to the plaintiffs’ opposition to their motion. The Government’s reply argues that BOEM complied with NEPA; that BOEM complied with the ESA; and that NMFS has not delayed this biological opinion.
With regard to the last argument, the Federal defendants submitted a declaration by David M. Bernhart, Assistant Regional Administrator for the Protected Resources Division in the Southeast Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service. This declaration states in part that
“NMFS believes at this time that the updated deadline of November 18, 2014, for a new biological opinion can be met…. A court order requiring NMFS to complete this biological opinion on a shorter schedule would threaten NMFS’s ability to conduct a thorough and reasoned analysis of the effects of this agency action on threatened and endangered species.”
Click here to read Bernhart declaration