Photo via the Telegraph
A federal judge in New Orleans blocked the Obama administration's 6 month moratorium on deep water offshore drilling. According to the New York Times, the judge Martin L. C. Feldman wrote in a 22-page opinion that "The blanket moratorium ... 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." He said the offshore ban would cause "punitive" economic harm and was unwarranted. The White House disagrees -- strongly. What's more, the judge may be heavily invested in the offshore oil industry, and the decision may present a conflict of interest.White House Vows to Appeal Ruling
The Obama administration immediately vowed to appeal the ruling, arguing that there were indeed many distinct reasons that drilling in deep waters should be suspended. From the Times: Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary,
said it made sense to suspend exploratory deep-water drilling until the completion of the investigation into the April 20 explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP and the still-flowing leak from the underwater well ... President Obama "strongly believes," Mr. Gibbs said, "that continuing to drill at these depths without knowing what happened does not make any sense" and would jeopardize "the safety of those on the rigs and safety of the environment in the gulf."Which certainly seems reasonable ...
It should be noted that the injunction issued by Feldman doesn't immediately allow exploratory drilling to resume -- the federal government has an opportunity to appeal, and to strengthen its case for keeping deep water offshore drilling suspended for the time being. And when they do build a stronger case, perhaps they should have it heard by another judge -- one without so many flagrant conflicts of interest.
Judge Is Heavily Invested in Oil Companies, Transocean
According to the SF Chronicle, the very judge who blocked the offshore drilling ban had some pretty obvious reasons to do so:
The federal judge who overturned Barack Obama's offshore drilling moratorium reported owning stock in numerous companies involved in the offshore oil industry including TransOcean ... which owns the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig leased to BP ... If there was ever a classic example of conflict-of-interest, Feldman's picture would be right next to it. In the latest available financial disclosure forms, Feldman owned stock in Transocean and five other companies that are either directly or indirectly involved in the offshore drilling business.See these documents for the records. That's not necessarily evidence of wrongdoing, but it paints a pretty obvious picture of the judge's bias, and suggests stronger ties to the oil industry than an objective judge may be desired to have.