Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Federal judge blocks moratorium on deepwater drilling in Gulf

Of course the White House is planning to appeal a federal judge's ruling Tuesday that blocked U.S. President Barack Obama from imposing a six-month freeze on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Obama ordered the moratorium after British Petroleum was unable to stop a massive oil leak that followed an explosion aboard an undersea drilling platform off the coast of Louisiana in April. And, of course, companies that supply boats and other equipment to oil exploration companies went to court to try to block Obama's decision. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman granted a preliminary injunction to stop the federal government from enforcing the moratorium, despite the catastrophic and still-growing damage being done to the region's environment and economy. Government officials estimate more than 2 million gallons of oil are flowing unimpeded into the Gulf every day, according to Cable News Network (CNN). The moratorium stopped all companies from drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet and stopped any new permits from being issued until authorities can figure out what went wrong on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform and how to ensure it doesn't happen again. That sounds like common sense, doesn't it? But common sense has become, like beauty, a matter of personal perspective. How else to explain why Louisiana's Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal and Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu urged the feds not to appeal the ruling. "I'm going to strongly urge the administration not to appeal this ruling, but to try to find a way forward that would achieve the president's goals for safety and responsibility, but at the same time would not jeopardize and threaten a very vibrant and necessary industry for decades," Landrieu told reporters, CNN said. In his ruling, Feldman sided with industry-support companies that contended they would be irreparably harmed by the moratorium, even though the explosion and spill already had done catastrophic harm to the environment and to the 11 workers who were killed. "An invalid agency decision to suspend drilling of wells in depths of over 500 feet simply cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country," the judge wrote. Justice Department attorney Brian Collins had argued on Monday that the moratorium was necessary to allow federal authorities to review the safety of deep-water oil drilling operations. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president would file an immediate appeal of the ruling. "The president strongly believes, as the Department of Interior and Department of Justice argued yesterday, that continuing to drill at these depths without knowing what happened does not make any sense," Gibbs said. In a statement Monday, BP said it had already spent $2 billion responding to the spill, including payment of 32,000 individual claims.

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