Supreme court to hear Exxon appeal
The US Supreme Court has agreed to take up ExxonMobil’s appeal of a Ninth Circuit Court decision made after the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska. The circuit court had said that the company, as shipowner, could be held liable vicariously for punitive damages for the actions of the ship’s crew, which caused the accident. The Supreme Court decision’s to take the appeal follows an amicus curiae brief that IADC filed in September to support ExxonMobil’s appeal. IADC’s brief highlighted the fact that the Ninth Circuit’s opinion conflicts with more than 200 years of federal maritime law and with other circuit court rulings.
GOM acreage may become Sanctuary
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is considering adding Gulf of Mexico acreage to the national Marine Sanctuary Program beyond the currently designated Flower Garden Banks in the MMS western GOM planning area. This is an unwelcome development as it could further limit oil and gas exploration throughout the GOM, much of which is already closed to development by congressional and presidential moratoria. Industry has met with NOAA officials as it begins its study and hopes to illustrate the value of its information-gathering efforts in determining shallow hazards, deep current regimes and undersea pipeline routing.
WTD court process begins
The long-awaited formal process involving trade unions’ challenge to UKCS implementation of the EU Working Time Directive as applied to offshore work began on 8 October in the Employment Tribunal (Scotland) in Aberdeen. The central question is whether the EU Directive guarantees four weeks of additional paid holiday leave to offshore workers. The UK offshore oil and natural gas industry, including IADC, takes the position this is already provided in the existing rota system. Industry expert witnesses have testified. A three-man panel will determine the outcome.
Industry urges ratifying Law of the Sea
IADC, in concert with API and NOIA, has long advocated ratification by the US Senate of the Law of the Sea Treaty, to which upwards of 150 countries have acceded. In the US, opposition has come from extreme conservative groups who argue the treaty impinges on US sovereignty. Paul Kelly, now a consultant to Rowan Companies, testified on 4 October on behalf of the collective US E&P industry in support of the treaty. Oil and natural gas interests see the treaty as a means of resolving offshore territorial disputes and of extending US offshore boundaries for potential E&P leasing. Industry is joined by the US Navy, many environmental organizations, former Secretaries of State and President Bush in endorsing the treaty.