December 2012

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Hornbeck Offshore Services, L.L.C., et al. v. Kenneth Salazar, Secretary, Department of Interior, et al., No. 11-30936, 2012 WL5910842 (5th Cir. 2012). Whether in or out of the inner circle of the oil and gas industry, most are likely familiar with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It proved to be the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry and had far reaching implications. There has been a great deal of commentary on investigations, accusations and litigation resulting from the spill. Perhaps not as widely known is the action filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services, L.L.C., and approximately forty other companies involved in the oil and gas drilling, exploration, and production industry, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief regarding the six month moratorium by the U.S. Department of the Interior, which prohibited all new and existing oil and gas drilling operations on the Outer Continental Shelf (the “May Directive”). Hornbeck argued that the May Directive and the notices that the Department of Interior sent to thirty-three operators of permitted wells were inadequately explained and justified and violated the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”). Hornbeck also complained that the Secretary of Interior had exceeded his authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana held in favor of Hornbeck on its claims under the APA and preliminarily enjoined enforcement of the moratorium. The Department of Interior immediately appealed the injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and sought a stay of its enforcement. (more…)