Court Amends Scheduling Order in Alaska Oil and Gas Seismic Cook Inlet Case to Accommodate Likely New ESA Citizen Suit Claim involving Consultation for Beluga Whale

On February 15, 2020, the parties filed a stipulated motion to revise the court’s scheduling order in the case Cook Inlet v. Ross (District Alaska).

Cook Inletkeeper and Center for Biological Diversity have sued Federal Defendants Wilbur Ross and James Balsiger, in their official capacities, and the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) in Alaska federal district court. Hilcorp Alaska, LLC and the State of Alaska have intervened in the case, which currently involves the plaintiffs’ challenge to an oil and gas seismic take permit for Cook Inlet, Alaska, that NMFS issued under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act.  The Plaintiffs claim risk to Cook Inlet beluga whales.

The stipulated motion allows the Government more time to amend and supplement the administrative record for the case in light of the plaintiffs’ January 31, 2020, sixty-day notice of intent to sue to Government Defendants pursuant to 16 U.S.C. § 1540(g), alleging violations of section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1536, in connection with the Governments’ authorization of the Cook Inlet oil and gas seismic permit at issue in the case. The plaintiffs state that they intend to amend their complaint in the case to include this ESA claim after the statutorily required citizen suit notice period has run. The Government defendants state that they may amend the administrative record in response to the new ESA claim and need more time for that.

In a February 24, 2020 order, the court granted the stipulated motion to change the scheduling order to allow the requested additional time.

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