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BOEMRE ordered to process Ensco permit applications within 30 days

Posted on 22 February 2011

Late last week, Ensco won a motion for a preliminary injunction against the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), which has been ordered to take action on five of Ensco’s pending drilling permit applications within 30 days and to report its compliance to the court.

In granting the motion for a preliminary injunction, US District Court Judge Martin Feldman noted that Ensco has shown:

• A substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits;

• A substantial threat of irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted;

• The threatened injury outweighs any harm that will result to the non-movant if the injunction is granted; and

• The injunction will not disserve the public interest.

The judge noted that, under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the government is under a duty to act by either granting or denying a permit application within a reasonable time. “Not acting at all is not a lawful option,” the ruling stated.

The court also agreed with Ensco that 30 days is “a common sense marker” of the speed at which applications should be approved or denied – the same as the 30-day time period Congress has mandated in which the BOEMRE must act on exploration plans.

Before Macondo, permits were processed, on average, in two weeks’ time. Yet five permits relating to Ensco’s deepwater rigs have been pending from four to nine months – a time frame the judge called “unreasonable, unacceptable and unjustified.”

“As the first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster draws near, any reason that would have justified delays has, under a rule of reason, expired. Beginning to process permit applications will restore normalcy to the Gulf region and repair the public’s faith in the administrative process,” the judge wrote.

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