A federal judge in New Orleans has lifted the Obama Administration’s six month moratorium on offshore oil drilling. U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman said in his ruling that the Interior Department failed to provide adequate reasoning for the moratorium:
A New Orleans federal judge lifted the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed by President Barack Obama following the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Shares of drilling services companies jumped on the news.
Obama temporarily halted all drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet on May 27 to give a presidential commission time to study improvements in the safety of offshore operations. More than a dozen Louisiana offshore service and supply companies sued U.S. regulators to lift the ban.
U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman today granted a preliminary injunction, halting the moratorium. Government lawyers told Feldman that ban was based on findings in a U.S. report following the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig off the Louisiana coast in April.
“The court is unable to divine or fathom a relationship between the findings and the immense scope of the moratorium,” Feldman said in his 22-page decision. “The blanket moratorium, with no parameters, seems to assume that because one rig failed and although no one yet fully knows why, all companies and rigs drilling new wells over 500 feet also universally present an imminent danger.”
Don’t start celebrating just yet, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration would immediately appeal the decision to the 5th Circuit.
Bottom line, Judge Feldman’s ruling is victory for common sense and the rule of law that will hopefully be upheld by the 5th Circuit.
The Obama Administration’s six month moratorium was ill-conceived from the start. The seven experts who advised President Obama on offshore drilling safety after the Deepwater Horizon explosion have all gone on record accusing the administration of misrepresenting their views to make it appear they supported a six-month drilling moratorium — something they actually oppose… and something Judge Feldman hones in on in his ruling (PDF):
In the Executive Summary to the Report, the Secretary [Salazar] recommends “a six-month moratorium on permits for new wells being drilled using floating rigs.” He also recommends “an immediate halt to drilling operations on the 33 permitted wells, not including relief wells currently being drilled by BP, that are currently being drilled using floating rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Much to the government’s discomfort and this Court’s uneasiness, the Summary also states that “the recommendations contained in this report have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering.” As the plaintiffs, and the experts themselves, pointedly observe, this statement was misleading. The experts charge it was a “misrepresentation.” It was factually incorrect. Although the experts agreed with the safety recommendations contained in the body of the main Report, five of the National Academy experts and three of the other experts have publicly stated that they “do not agree with the six month blanket moratorium” on floating drilling.
Update (Wednesday, June 23, 2010): The AP is reporting Interior Secretary Ken Salazar intends to issue a new order imposing a moratorium on deepwater drilling in a few days. The report claims Sec. Salazar’s new order will include additional information making clear why the government believes the six-month drilling is necessary.
- Ken Salazar gets an ass-kicking. Over to you, Capitol Hill. – Michelle Malkin