By Jessica Gladney

In Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Department of the Interior, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling on April 17, 2009 vacating the Department of the Interior’s statutorily-mandated five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program for the period 2007-2012. The five-year leasing program included an expansion of lease offerings in the Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi Seas off the coast of Alaska. Suit was filed against the Department of the Interior by the Center for Biological Diversity and by Alaska native and environmental groups who challenged the leasing program on various environmental grounds. The D.C. Circuit (which has exclusive jurisdiction over a legal challenge to the five-year leasing program) rejected many of the petitioners’ claims, but upheld the challenge based on a finding that "the [Leasing] Program’s environmental sensitivity rankings are irrational." Accordingly, the court vacated the leasing program and remanded the program to Interior for reconsideration.

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