U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Case Status


Docket Number

11-72891, 1172943


Case Updates

Ninth Circuit addresses Interior Department approval of Beaufort Sea exploration plan

May 25, 2012

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the environmentalists' challenges to the Department of the Interior’s approvals of Shell’s Exploration Plans for the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea.

U.S. Chamber files amicus brief

February 03, 2012

The U.S. Chamber along with a broad coalition of trade associations urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reject environmental activists' efforts to block planned oil exploratory activities in the Beaufort and Chuckhi Seas - notwithstanding that prior legal challenges have repeatedly failed, and in spite of increased industry commitment of financial and operational resources to further reduce the threat of environmental harm. In this case, environmentalist plaintiffs sued the Department of the Interior to challenge the Department's approval of Shell's Beaufort Sea Exploration Plan, arguing that entirely speculative and unsubstantiated potential harms justify blocking exploration.

In the amicus brief, the U.S. Chamber and its coalition partners warned that the economic implications of this lawsuit are profound. Only a few weeks ago, the federal Government released an updated assessment estimating that the Beaufort Sea contains 6.3 billion barrels of undiscovered oil that is economically recoverable at roughly current market prices. Over eleven billion additional barrels are located in the adjacent Chukchi Sea. Development of these Alaska offshore resources will create an estimated annual average of over fifty-four thousand new jobs over the next forty-five years, generating $145 billion in employee payroll. The amicus brief argues that this lawsuit frustrates Congress's carefully considered goal of encouraging “expeditious” exploration and production of the Outer Continental Shelf. If the plaintiffs prevail, the permitting process would come to a standstill, causing serious negative economic impacts, especially on the local Alaskan economy. Such a decision would also put the nation's energy security at risk, increasing American dependence on foreign energy sources.

Amicus brief filed 2/3/12. Supplemental amicus brief filed 4/3/12. Decided 5/25/12.

Case Documents