A federal judge in New Orleans halted President Obama’s deepwater drilling moratorium on Tuesday, saying the government never justified the ban and appeared to mislead the public in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Judge Martin L.C. Feldman issued an injunction, saying that the moratorium will hurt drilling-rig operators and suppliers and that the government has not proved an outright ban is needed, rather than a more limited moratorium.
He also said the Interior Department also misstated the opinion of the experts it consulted. Those experts from the National Academy of Engineering have said they don’t support the blanket ban.
“Much to the government’s discomfort and this Court’s uneasiness, the summary also states that ‘the recommendations contained in this report have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering.’ As the plaintiffs, and the experts themselves, pointedly observe, this statement was misleading,” Judge Feldman said in his 22-page ruling.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration will appeal the decision, and said Mr. Obama believes the government must figure out what went wrong with the Deepwater Horizon rig before deepwater drilling goes forward. Still, the ruling is another setback as Mr. Obama seeks to show he’s in control of the 2-month-old spill.
Democrats and Republicans from the Gulf states have called on the president to end the blanket moratorium, saying it is hurting the region.
Oil company executives told Congress last week they would have to move their rigs to other countries because they lose up to $1 million a day per idle rig, and said there are opportunities elsewhere.