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.