Enviro group threatens lawsuit if drilling continues through shutdown

The environmental group alleges that as the Interior continues to process permits for oil-and-gas operations in coastal offshore areas it will not conduct environmental reviews.

"We recognize that federal agencies have been put in a difficult position with the shutdown, and we are looking forward to the government reopening," Snape wrote in a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

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"However it is contradictory and illegal to restrict public access to public lands such as the National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, Offshore Areas, and Bureau of Land Management Lands, while allowing environmentally degrading private activities to occur on those same lands," Snape wrote.

After the shutdown took effect, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it would not be able to ensure companies comply with environmental law, as studies would cease.

The government shutdown has put a freeze on nearly all Interior operations. Roughly 59,000 Interior employees have been furloughed — about 80 percent of the agencies workforce.