Judge Overturns Offshore Drilling Moratorium


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A federal judge has overturned the Obama administration’s 6-month moratorium on new deepwater offshore drilling projects. Obama plans to appeal the decision. The New York Times has more:

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, arguing it was arbitrarily imposed. Feldman agreed, 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 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.

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal and corporate leaders said the moratorium would force drilling rigs to leave the Gulf of Mexico for lucrative business in foreign waters. They said the loss of business would cost the area thousands of lucrative jobs, most paying more than $50,000 a year. The state’s other major economic sector, tourism, is a largely low-wage industry.

But in its response to the lawsuit, the Interior Department said the moratorium is necessary as attempts to stop the leak and clean the Gulf continue and new safety standards are developed.

The Huffington Post analyzes what might happen next:

The administration’s appeal of the ruling seems likely to ensure that the moratorium will stay in place for the time being – at least until the 5th Circuit determines whether they will hear the case and/or uphold or change the ruling. Indeed, it is not beyond the realm of reason that the appeals process could be dragged out at least until the administration is satisfied that the 33 wells where drilling has been put on halt, are sufficiently safe.