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.
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. Government lawyers told U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman that the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig off the Louisiana coast in April was a "game changer’’ that exposed the risks of offshore oil exploration.
"We need to make sure deepwater drilling is as safe as we thought it was the day before this incident,’’ Brian Collins, a lawyer for the government, told Feldman in a court hearing June 21. "It is crucial to take the time because to fail to do so would be to gamble with the long-term future of this region.’’
More than a dozen Louisiana offshore service and supply companies sued U.S. regulators to lift the ban. State officials claim 20,000 Louisiana jobs are in jeopardy if the deepwater drilling suspension lasts 18 months.
UPDATE: I've taken a gander at the opinion just handed down (it's here in PDF format) and I find it to be short on legal reasoning and high in snark. For example, in a footnote it reads:
The Report [of the Secretary of the Interior] notes that the Deepwater Horizon disaster is "commanding the Department of Interior's resources." A disturbing admission by this Administration.
WTF with the editorializing? And why is it "distrubing" that the Department of Interior is working to the fullest extent on the Deepwater Horizon disaster? Hasn't the criticism been that the Obama Administration hasn't been doing enough?!? And now when we learn that the Department of Interior's resources are heavily involved in fighting the distaster, it is "disturbing"? Really?
Anyway, the Court's reasoned that the decision to put a 6-month moratorium on deep sea drilling was "arbitrary and capricious". Why was it arbitrary and capricious? Because, according to the Court, just because one drill broke and failed doesn't mean they all will.
That's one way to look at it, I suppose. Yet, when a part goes bad in a Boeing-made large passenger plane, don't they require ALL those planes to be rounded and inspected? It's not unheard of.
Hmmmm. Here’s some assorted information on Feldman:
: Judge Feldman graduated from Tulane Law School in 1957, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif, and Assistant Editor of the Tulane Law Review. … His practice emphasized tax law and complex commercial litigation. … On October 12, 1983 he was appointed United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana by President Reagan, and presently serves as the Chairman of the Fifth Circuit’s Committee on Pattern Civil Jury Instructions. … Judge Feldman is a member of the Advisory Committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is Chair of the Board of Advisory Editors of the Tulane Law Review, … From 1994 to 2000 he was a lecturer in Constitutional Law and war powers at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Administration. … [H]as been a guest lecturer at Amherst College in constitutional interpretation and the philosophy of the Rule of Law.
This comment in the Robing Room seems to say it all: "Intelligent, Pompous, egotistical, pushy, arrogant, unfair, no empathy for poor people and workers who come before him, his heart is with business."
Apparently. Well, an appeal is in the works.
UPDATE #2: Yyyyyeah. Thought so. From Think Progress:
Like many judges presiding in the Gulf region, Feldman owns lots of energy stocks, including Transocean, Halliburton, and two of BP’s largest U.S. private shareholders — BlackRock (7.1%) and JP Morgan Chase (28.3%). Here’s a list of Feldman’s income in 2008 (amounts listed unless under $1,000):
JP Morgan Chase, BlackRock ($12000- $36000)
Ocean Energy ($1000 – $2500)
NGP Capital Resources ($1000 – $2500)
Quicksilver Resources ($5000 – $15000)
Hercules Offshore ($6000 – $17500)
Atlas Energy Resources
EV Energy Partners
El Paso Corp
ATP Oil & Gas
UPDATE #3: Another news agency reports:
Judge Feldman held less than $15,000 worth of stock in Transocean, as well as similar amounts (federal rules only require that judges report a range of values ) in Hercules Offshore, ATP Oil and Gas, and Parker Drilling. All of those companies offer contract offshore drilling services and operate offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Judge Feldman also owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in notes offered by Ocean Energy, Inc., a company that offers "concept design and manufacturing design of submersible drilling rigs".