Gulf Restoration Case |Transferred to Alabama

(CN) – A federal lawsuit challenging the approval of the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project has been transferred to the Mobile, Ala. Federal Court, a federal judge ruled.
     The complaint, which was originally filed in the D.C. Federal Court on Oct. 23, 2014, claims the approval of the Gulf Coast project violated the Oil Pollution Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
     The plaintiff in the case, Gulf Restoration Network, is a Louisiana-based nonprofit organization. It brought the suit against a number of federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
     The individual leaders of the agencies, Sally Jewell, Kathryn Sullivan, Gina McCarthy and Tom Vilsack, were also named as defendants in their official capacities.
     The case stems from restoration efforts that followed the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The highly-publicized accident resulted in “approximately five million barrels of oil and an undetermined amount of natural gas” being discharged into the Gulf of Mexico.
     In response, British Petroleum, which operated Deepwater Horizon, committed $1 billion to help fund restoration projects along the coast. Among those identified for funding was the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project, which includes a hotel and convention center to be located within the State of Alabama’s Gulf State Park. The project received final approval Oct. 2, 2014.
     According to the memorandum opinion, Gulf Restoration Network claims that the defendants approved the project “without adequately considering alternative early restoration projects” or documenting “how the Project will help make Alabama whole from the Spill.”
     The defendants moved to transfer the case to the Southern District of Alabama, and the federal court granted the motion “in the interest of justice, particularly the interest of Alabama’s citizens in deciding this controversy at home.”
     Noting that the question to transfer the case was “a close one,” the court stated that the decision ultimately hinged on “the substantial local interest in deciding local controversies at home.”
     Gulf Restoration Network’s choice of venue was not given “substantial deference” in the matter, since it was not a resident of the District of Columbia.

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