Judge issues injunction against off-shore drilling moratorium
Yesterday afternoon, a federal judge put an end to President Barack Obama’s six month moratorium on off-shore drilling:
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. The U.S. said it will appeal the decision.
U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman today granted a preliminary injunction, halting the moratorium. He also “immediately prohibited” the U.S. from enforcing the ban. Government lawyers told Feldman the 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.”
You can read the decision here.
Judge Feldman also notes:
This Court is persuaded that the public interest weighs in favor of granting a preliminary injunction. While a suspension of activities directed after a rational interpretation of the evidence could outweigh the impact on the plaintiffs and the public, here, the Court has found the plaintiffs would likely succeed in showing that the [government’s] decision was arbitrary and capricious. 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.
“We absolutely agree with the judge’s conclusion that the administration’s six-month, or longer, shutdown of deepwater drilling was ‘arbitrary and capricious,’” Jindal said.
Jindal pointed out in a statement late Tuesday that a ban on drilling threatens thousands of jobs in the state and hurts other businesses that supply oil-and-gas companies.
“We absolutely do not want another spill or one more drop of oil on our coast or in our water, but thousands of Louisianians should not have to lose their jobs because the federal government can’t adequately do their job of ensuring drilling is done safely,” he said.
Jindal also criticized the federal government for a “clear lack of urgency” in setting up a commission to study deepwater drilling. He estimated the state could lose more than 20,000 existing and potential new jobs in the next 12 to 18 months if the federal panel takes longer than six months to write its reports.
Jindal is also asking President Obama not to appeal the ruling:
While support for off-shore drilling has dropped in Florida, it remains strong in Louisiana and in the nation as a whole. Voters aren’t going to like it when gas prices start to rise and they are going to blame Washington. President Obama should take notice.