Drilling ban blocked

White House promises appeal to judge’s ruling

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN – Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS

A federal judge struck down the Obama administration’s six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, saying the government simply assumed because one rig exploded, the others pose an imminent danger.

The White House promised an appeal. The Interior Department had imposed the moratorium in May in the wake of the BP disaster, halting approval of any new permits for deepwater projects and suspending drilling on 33 exploratory wells.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said President Barack Obama believes until investigations can determine why the spill happened, continued deepwater drilling exposes workers and the environment to “a danger that the president does not believe we can afford.”

Several companies that ferry people and supplies and provide other services to offshore rigs argued the moratorium was arbitrarily imposed.

Judge sides with plaintiffs

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan who has owned stock in a number of petroleum-related companies, sided with the plaintiffs.

“If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are?” he asked.

“Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines? That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather overbearing.”

He also warned the shutdown would have an “immeasurable effect” on the industry, the local economy and the U.S. energy supply.

Said Gov. Haley Barbour: “Hopefully, the judge’s ruling will go into effect quickly and be upheld on appeal. The moratorium is bad policy.”

The ruling was also welcomed by the oil and gas industry and decried by environmentalists.

Judge’s holdings probed

Feldman’s financial disclosure report for 2008, the most recent available, shows holdings in at least eight petroleum companies or funds that invest in them, including Transocean Ltd., which owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that blew up.

The report shows most of his holdings were valued at less than $15,000; it did not provide specific amounts.

It was not clear whether Feldman still has any of the energy industry stocks. Recent court filings indicate he may no longer have Transocean stock.

Read more: http://www.sunherald.com/2010/06/22/2280532/drilling-ban-blocked.html#ixzz0rgJJweUV

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