Alaska Wilderness League v. Jewell

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 06-11-2015
  • Case #: 13-35866
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Nguyen for the Court; Circuit Judges Farris and Nelson
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the Administrative Procedure Act, when a plan meets all the statutory requirements, approval is not arbitrary or capricious.

Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc. ("Shell") secured a lease to access offshore oil and gas resources. As part of that process, Shell must submit to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement ("the Bureau") their oil spill response plan for approval. The Bureau approved Shell's plan because it met the six enumerated requirements of 33 U.S.C. § 1321(j)(5)(D) and implemented the regulations. In response, a coalition of environmental groups challenged the Bureau's approval, alleging that the Bureau should have consulted the Endangered Species Act and created an Environmental Impact Statement before approving Shell's plans. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The panel reasoned that the Bureau's approval was not "arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law under the Administrative Procedure Act." Additionally, section 1321(j)(5)(E) states that the agency "shall . . . approve any plan that meets the requirements of this paragraph." Due to Shell's plan having met those requirements, there was nothing to hinder plan approval. Therefore, the Bureau’s approval of the plans was "a nondiscretionary act that did not trigger a requirement for interagency consultation under the Endangered Species Act." AFFIRMED.

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