Federal Court lifts drilling moratorium-UPDATE: Hinderaker weighs in

Today a Federal District Court Judge  in Louisiana lifted Obama’s 60 day drilling moratorium that prohibited all drilling in the Gulf of Mexico at depths greater than 500 feet of water.  From what I have seen, the judge was singularly unimpressed with virtually all aspects of the governments argument.

Government lawyers told [Judge Martin]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.’

The drilling companies have binding leases with the federal government, and it was not alleged that the companies violated those leases in any respect.  The wells were permitted by the government, inspected by the government and allowed to drill by the government.  In fact,

… all active deepwater rigs passed an immediate re-inspection after the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, with only two rigs reporting minor violations and the rest getting approval to continue operations.

Among other things, the oil companies argued that the moratorium would cost thousands of jobs, and cause further harm to a region of the country that is already suffering perhaps irreparable harm.  According to the judge, the government ,

[attempted to]  trivialize such losses by characterizing them as merely a small percentage of the drilling rigs affected…

But the judge found that “it does not follow that this will somehow reduce the convincing harm suffered”, saying that the economic impacts of the ban would “clearly ripple throughout the economy of this region.”

Bottom line…the judge granted the injunction after finding that the government’s actions were “arbitrary and capricious” and violated federal law governing decisions such as this one.

From what I can tell, the government offered not a scintilla of evidence to support the moratorium, but, I’m guessing the government will appeal anyway.  I most certainly wouldn’t want to be the government attorney arguing this before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

UPDATE: Our friend and also an attorney,John Hinderaker at Powerline adds an important point. The Judge points to the Executive Summary on which the Obama administration relied. The Judge called the White House’s characterization of the report misleading since 5 of the seven experts cited in the report did not endorse a moratorium on drilling. Go there and read the whole post. John adds this.

The Obama administration responded characteristically by slandering Judge Feldman and vowing to appeal. Do they have a shot on appeal? I think they do. The record as presented to the trial court was thin, and the administration’s misrepresentation about the experts’ endorsement of their plan obviously hurt. But the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, to which the appeal will be taken, could well conclude that the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon disaster is such that the Department of the Interior’s ruling is justified even if it is supported by no detailed fact-finding, and even if it was based on an attempt to deceive the American people.

9 replies
  1. chris-os
    chris-os says:

    Can you explain to me why no one is calling out this judge for having conflicts of interests?

    "Martin Feldman, a U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana, held energy stocks in Transocean and Halliburton, as well as two of BP's largest U.S. private shareholders — BlackRock and JP Morgan Chase. The law Feldman overturned would have halted the approval of any new permits and suspended deepwater drilling at 33 existing exploratory wells in the Gulf, four of which are BP rigs."

    And we all talk about corruption in other countries?

    If another rig explodes before we figure out how to prevent it from happening-it will be Obama's fault, won't it?

    • SoundOffSister
      SoundOffSister says:


      You should know that Judge Feldman sold his holdings in Halliburton and Transocean in 2008.  Additionally, all of his stock holdings are the subject of required public records filings, which is how this information is available to the press, and, of course the government.  Judge Feldman also discussed it in a May 24 order.  If the government had any qualms about his "fairness", all they had to do was file what is called a Motion to Recuse.  Typically, a judge will recuse (or step down) himself when confronted with such a motion if for no other reason than to avoid an appellate issue.

      • Dimsdale
        Dimsdale says:

        The only time lefties shed their conflicts of interest is one day before they pass legislation that will destroy the company in question.  Or they stuff them into their bras or freezer sections of their refrigerators.


        Let's look at how Øbama was the largest recipient of BP political donations.  Or was it graft to let them continue to drill without government intervention?  Coincidence?

  2. Law-AbidingCitizen
    Law-AbidingCitizen says:

    So, If I have all of this right, Obama will just file the same type of motion to stop drilling in another court where he has more control, right?

    And, it will still be Bush's fault.

    Wow, lefty logic makes my head spin and it ultimately hurts. It's Bush's fault again, right?

    "When first we practice to deceive, . . . "

Comments are closed.