Judge Upholds Drill Ban Challenge


"Feldman's decision did not dispute the validity of second moratorium."

A federal judge in New Orleans on Wednesday, September 1st refused the Obama administration's request to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

A group of oilfield companies led by Hornbeck Offshore Services has been fighting the drilling ban in court since early June on the grounds that the blanket order failed to consider the moratorium's economic impact. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman ruled on June 22nd in favor of the plaintiffs, ordering the government not to enforce the ban.

The U.S. Department of the Interior responded with a second moratorium, claiming the government had access to additional information justifying the ban and that the new order rendered the earlier moratorium moot.

Feldman's decision did not dispute the validity of the second moratorium, but said it offered 'no substantial changes' from the earlier ban and that the lawsuit, Hornbeck et al. vs. Salazar, could proceed.

'In reality, the new moratorium covers precisely the same rigs and precisely the same deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as did the first moratorium,' Feldman wrote in the decision.

On July 9th, Ensco filed a lawsuit challenging the second moratorium, which like the original ban, is set to expire on November 30th.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has defended the drilling halt as a necessary step to ensure safety following the April 20th BP Macondo well blowout—the worst environmental disaster in history, which killed 11 people and untold sea life.

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