Federal Judge Blocks Obama Administration’s Oil Drilling Moratorium
A Federal Judge in Louisiana has told the Obama Administration that it can't ban offshore drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
A Federal Judge in Lousiana has struck down the Obama Administration’s effort to bar offshore drilling for six months in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster:
NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge struck down the Obama administration’s six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, saying the government rashly concluded that because one rig failed, the others are in immediate danger, too.
The White House promised an immediate appeal. The Interior Department had halted approval of any new permits for deepwater drilling and suspended drilling of 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said President Barack Obama believes strongly that drilling at such depths does not make sense and puts the safety of workers “at a danger that the president does not believe we can afford.”
Several companies that ferry people and supplies and provide other services to offshore drilling rigs asked U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans to overturn the moratorium.
They argued it was arbitrarily imposed after the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 workers and blew out the well 5,000 feet underwater. It has spewed anywhere from 67 million to 127 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.
Feldman sided with the companies, saying in his ruling the Interior Department assumed that because one rig failed, all companies and rigs doing deepwater drilling pose an imminent danger.
“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an unprecedented, sad, ugly and inhuman disaster,” he wrote. “What seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of irreparable harm.”
His ruling prohibits federal officials from enforcing the moratorium until a trial is held. He did not set a trial date.
The Interior Department said it needed time to study the risks of deepwater drilling. But the lawsuit filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services of Covington, La., claimed there was no proof the other operations posed a threat.
Company CEO Todd Hornbeck said after the ruling that he is looking forward to getting back to work.
“It’s the right thing for not only the industry but the country,” he said.
The six month moratorium struck me as overkill, especially since there’s no evidence that the disaster we’re dealing with was caused by something common to oil drilling as an industry. Instead, it’s becoming clearer every day that we’re dealing with a series of bad decisions by BP officials on the rig and off that led to the events of April 20th. There’s no reason to believe that every rig in the Gulf of Mexico is similarly afflicted, and no sense in harming the economy of the Gulf Coast even more by shutting down a vital industry.
As for whether or not the Judge is right on the merits, I will have to leave that to someone who is more expert in the relevant law to comment on, but Judge Feldman’s decision seems pretty airtight to me.
Speaking of the decision, here it is: