Washington, DC – Today, Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) filed a complaint in federal court against the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to find out whether DOI’s decision to withdraw the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) from the 2017-2022 Oil and Gas Leasing Program was politically motivated.  In August, CoA Institute filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for related communications, but DOI failed to turn over any responsive records. Meanwhile, DOI is busily finalizing the new Five-Year Program.

When DOI released its Draft Proposed Program (DPP) in January 2015, it included one lease sale in the Atlantic Region. The inclusion of the Atlantic in the DPP enjoyed broad support. Members of the congressional delegations from affected East Coast states, including Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, supported the inclusion of the Atlantic Planning Areas.

On March 15, 2016, DOI announced its decision to withdraw the Atlantic Planning Areas from the Program. Within months – just after Kaine became the Democratic Vice Presidential running-mate – he also reversed course and said he opposed offshore energy development, citing objections from the Department of Defense (DoD). DOI, meanwhile, has insisted that the withdrawal of the Atlantic Planning Areas was not predominantly attributable to the DoD’s comment on 5% of the proposed area.

CoA Institute today sued DOI for all communications concerning the Atlantic OCS and the 2017-2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program between or among DOI and its bureaus, as well as communications about the program between the White House, DoD, and the office of Senator Kaine.

CoA Institute Vice President John Vecchione: “When the Department of the Interior reverses course without explanation on including the Atlantic in the new Five-Year Program, it raises questions about whether the reversal was political.  Although DOI claims its decision was based on opposition from the public, the states, and the military, the available record appears to show otherwise.  Americans deserve to know whether their government is favoring special interest groups rather than making decisions based on the facts.  That’s why CoA Institute is determined to shed light on DOI’s opaque decision to withdraw the Atlantic Planning Areas from the 2017-2022 Program.”

The complaint can be found here
Exhibits can be found here
The August 2016 FOIA request can be found here