Federal Judge in Louisiana says plaintiffs lacked standing to bring ESA claims in Deepwater Horizon case
In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico, MDL 2179, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63642 (E.D. La., June 16, 2011).
This multidistrict litigation consists of hundreds of cases arising from the April 20, 2010 explosion, fire, and capsizing of the Deepwater Horizon drilling unit owned by defendant Transocean. The court created several pleading bundles. This particular bundle consists of claims for injunctive relief brought against private parties by thousands of individuals. Among the many claims for injunctive relief was a claim for violations of the Endangered Species Act. Transocean filed a motion to dismiss the ESA claim (among others) which was granted. The court ruled that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring their ESA claim because injuries alleged would not be addressed by injunction. First, no benefit would be achieved because the well was capped and there is no ongoing release. In addition, the private companies along with agencies have been and are cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico and plaintiffs do not assert any deficiency in these ongoing remediation efforts. Finally, the claim depended on the actions of actors that were not before the court. The Defendants do not unilaterally direct cleanup activities in the Gulf, which are under the control of federal agencies. In addition, the court found plaintiffs' claims to be moot, that the defendants were not currently "in violation" of the ESA, and that there is no ongoing violation.
Dr. Brian Stacy, NOAA veterinarian, cleans a young Kemp's ridley turtle. Photo by NOAA/GADNR available from NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources.