Federal Bench to Obama: Oil's Well That Ends Well!
In a victory for drilling proponents, a federal judge struck down President Obama's six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, saying the administration rashly concluded that because one rig failed, the others are in immediate danger, too.
The White House promised an immediate appeal. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president believes strongly that drilling at such depths does not make sense and puts the safety of workers "at a danger that the president does not believe we can afford."
The Interior Department had halted approval of any new permits for deepwater drilling and suspended drilling of 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf.
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.
They argued it was arbitrarily imposed after the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 workers and blew out the well 5,000 feet underwater. It has spewed anywhere from 67 million to 127 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.
Feldman sided with the companies, 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 Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an unprecedented, sad, ugly and inhuman disaster," he wrote. "What seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of irreparable harm."
His ruling prohibits federal officials from enforcing the moratorium until a trial is held. He did not set a trial date.