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U.S. Chamber Files Brief to Allow Continued Exploration in the Gulf

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to reject a challenge to the federal offshore permitting process that could halt  all offshore oil and natural gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening our energy security and economy.

The Chamber, along with 36 other industry groups—many of them local chambers from the Gulf—weighed in on a lawsuit brought by environmental groups challenging the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) approval of an exploration plan proposed by Shell for the Gulf of Mexico, one of the first offshore exploration plans approved after the Secretary of the Interior lifted the controversial offshore drilling moratorium in October 2010. The case is Defenders of Wildlife, et al. v. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, et al. and Shell Gulf of Mexico, et al.

“Now that oil and natural gas production is finally resuming in the Gulf of Mexico, environmental groups are once again seeking to put the Gulf out of work,” said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.  “We cannot afford a ‘just say no’ energy policy.  Every drop of oil we produce in the Gulf generates investment in the U.S and reduces our dependence on oil from unstable regions. In addition, if successful, this lawsuit could put tens of thousands of Americans out of work at a time when unemployment is already far too high.”

The Chamber’s amicus brief argues that the government’s thoughtful and thorough assessment of the Shell exploration plan was anything but “arbitrary and capricious,” as the plaintiffs have alleged. Rather, the government has created a new permitting process that evaluates applications on a variety of criteria, including safety.  According to the brief, there is simply no legal basis for rejecting Shell’s exploration plan, which includes newly implemented safety measures, much less imposing a de facto moratorium on all further deepwater exploration and production by stopping or significantly delaying new approvals for deepwater exploration in the Gulf.  

“This case is a blatant example of regulation-by-litigation,” said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the Chamber’s public policy law firm. “The plaintiffs brought this lawsuit in an attempt to re-impose the offshore drilling moratorium that the Secretary of the Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management both determined was unnecessary.”

Joining the Chamber on the amicus brief are National Association of Manufacturers, Independent Petroleum Association of America, National Ocean Industries Association, Consumer Energy Alliance, American Gas Association, American Chemistry Council, Institute for Energy Research, The Alabama Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors, The Baytown Chamber of Commerce, The Bay City Chamber of Commerce, Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Blueprint Louisiana, The Business Council of Alabama, Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce, The Committee of 100 for Economic Development, East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce, Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce, Greater Houston Partnership, Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, The Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, The Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association, The Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, Mississippi Associated Builders & Contractors, Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce & Offshore Alabama, New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, Pelican Chapter, Associated Builders & Contractors, Ports Association of Louisiana, River Region Chamber of Commerce, Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, Southern Crop Production Association, Southwest Louisiana Chamber of Commerce, St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce, The Texas City-La Marque Chamber of Commerce, Thibodaux Chamber of Commerce.

NCLC is the public policy law firm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that advocates fair treatment of business in the courts and before regulatory agencies.

The mission of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy is to unify policymakers, regulators, business leaders, and the American public behind a common sense energy strategy to help keep America secure, prosperous, and clean. Through policy development, education, and advocacy, the Institute is building support for meaningful action at the local, state, national, and international levels.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.