Judge rules Obama deepwater drilling ban “arbitrary and capricious”

by Marlo Lewis on June 23, 2010

in Blog

Yesterday, Judge Martin Feldman of the Eastern Louisiana District Court lifted the Obama administration’s six-month moratorium on all oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in waters over 500 feet in depth.

Feldman held that the moratorium was ”arbitrary and capricious” and would do “irreparable harm” to businesses that own, operate, and service vessels used to support offshore drilling — an industry critical to the region’s economy.

Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar imposed the moratorium on May 28 in response to the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill. Judge Feldman found the moratorium to be “arbitrary and capricious” on several grounds.

First, it was based on “misrepresentation.” In a Report issued the day before imposing the moratorium, Salazar claimed his policy had been “peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering.” Not so, says Feldman:

As the plaintiffs, and the experts themselves, pointed observe, this statement was misleading. The experts charge it was a “misrepresentation.” It was factually incorrect. Although the experts agreed with the safety recommendations contained in the body of the main Report, five of the National Academy experts and three of the other experts have publicly stated that they “do not agree with the six month blanket moratorium” on floating drilling. They envisioned a more limited kind of moratorium, but a blanket moratorium was added after their final review, they complain, and was never agreed to by them.

Second, the agency’s decision is not supported by the evidence on which it was ostensibly based. The Report notes that “the risks associated with operating in water depths of 1,000 feet are significantly more complex than in shallow water,”  yet the moratorium would apply to all floating rigs – i.e. all rigs operating at depths greater than 500 feet. The agency makes no effort to explain why it set the cutoff at 500 feet rather than 1000 feet.

Third, “There is no suggestion that the Secretary considered any alternatives: for example, an individualized suspension of activities on target rigs until they reached compliance with the new federal regulations said to be recommended for immediate implementation.”

Fourth, the agency provided no “analysis of the asserted” hazards posed by the 33 deepwater rigs already permitted and operating in the Gulf. Rather, Interior “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.” This is like assuming that all oil tankers are like the Exxon Valdez. “That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather overbearing.”

Feldman’s ruling is unlikely to go unchallenged. According to Greenwire, David Guest, an attorney with EarthJustice who represented environmental groups in the case, opined that, “the Department of Justice will file an immediate motion for a stay and seek expedited review in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.”

BobRGeologist June 23, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Obama is proving to be the biggest obstacle we have in cleaning up the Gulf oil spill. He is obviously milking the spill for all the leverage he can bring to bear on getting his prize "cap and trade" bill thru congress by blackening oil's repetition. He is obviously in bed with the lunatic fringe of the Green movement and oblivious to the economic disaster this Machiavelian scheme will bring on our country and its citizens. (Machiaveli was famed for his schemes for the ruling city-states in 1700's Italy).

BobRGeologist June 23, 2010 at 6:19 pm

I also must comment about what some of the climate scientists involved in AGW have to say about their peers they term deniers, and our lack of qualifications to criticize. This attitude should earn them the all-time chutapah prize after they had been caught red handed violating most of the sacred tenets of science we all should abide by if our work is to be of value. They have no empirical evidence to show the role of CO2 as a hazardous substance after 20 years of Gov't funded research to the tune of over $30 billion. A conference of geologists and paleontologists, armed with what we know about ancient climates and the very recent Pleistocene glaciations, could have told them that our climate has never been too warm that life could not adapt. Our climate has tended towards the cold side and we are still in just another interglacial epoch of the Pleistocene. We deniers did NOT manufacture this phony warm crisis, and we didn't milk it for billions of dollars.

bob June 24, 2010 at 11:57 am


bob June 24, 2010 at 11:59 am

jack likes sophie

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: