The House of Representatives has passed a bill to expedite decision-making on Gulf of Mexico drilling permits, and critics assailed a provision to funnel related civil suits to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The provision would make it harder for some affected states to go after big oil companies in court, the critics were quoted as saying by a Talking Points Memo blog post.
Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., contended Florida and Alabama would not be able to bring such lawsuits in federal district courts located in their states, and he said the Fifth Circuit has drawn criticism as close to oil companies. (The Fifth Circuit has jurisdiction over federal courts in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.) Deutch’s amendment to delete the provision was rejected.
“Congress has no business telling courts within a state that they are prohibited from considering issues involving a lease for energy development, production, and exploration that has the potential to cause irreparable environmental and economic damage to the Gulf coast area of that state,” Deutch said while presenting his amendment, according to a Sun-Sentinel blog.
“It is a factual reality that, in at least one case, a majority of the Fifth Circuit was not able to even rule on a climate change case because of oil company-related conflicts,”said Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity, who was quoted in a Law360 article. (To learn more about that case, see Gavel Grab.)
A House Republican aide said the provision’s goal was “to create a targeted, experienced circuit court that can effectively and expeditiously rule on an offshore permitting civil action.”
The Democratic-controlled Senate has not taken up the version passed by the Republican-controlled House. To learn more about court-stripping, see the Justice at Stake issues page on the topic.