SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Court Decision prohibits the federal government
from enforcing deep-water oil drilling ban


June 22, 2010

(SitNews) - A federal judge in New Orleans Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction blocking a federal moratorium on deep-water oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a prepared statement, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell commented on today's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman finding that the Obama administration's moratorium on off-shore drilling was arbitrarily imposed.

"Today's ruling by Judge Feldman is good for the nation," Governor Parnell said. "Unfortunately, legal action isn't going to put Alaskans to work this summer, but this decision indicates that the courts are going to uphold the law and operators can expect to be treated fairly or be able to seek recourse. We hope this sends a clear message to federal agencies to grant the permits that Shell will need to drill in the Outer Continental Shelf in 2011."

U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) also commented in a prepared statement. "Today's decision by the Louisiana judge overturning the Obama Administration's temporary ban on deepwater offshore oil and gas development shows the moratorium was overreaching. It should serve as a shot across the bow to the administration and Congress that American workers must continue to develop America's energy resources within our borders," said Begich.

Begich said, "Companies demonstrating solid exploration and development plans and oil spill response plans should be able to develop our nation's abundant oil. Lifting a ban on deepwater activity, which carries greater risk than low-pressure, shallow-water development like in Alaska, hopefully will get responsible exploratory drilling planned by Shell in Alaska's Arctic waters back on track soon."

"As much as a tragedy as BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster is, we can't let emotion overrule sound energy policy. Our country's energy policy must include increased domestic oil and gas development as we transition to cleaner energy sources," said Begich

Regarding Judge Feldman's decision to overturn the Obama Administration's deepwater drilling ban, Congressman Don Young (R-AK) said in a prepared statement, "This moratorium would have delivered a devastating blow to an economy that is already hurting and so I am encouraged by Judge Feldman's decision. However, I would have liked to have seen the Beaufort and Chukchi also re-evaluated. These oil leases provide jobs and revenue as well as much needed fuel to a country that is currently beholden to foreign countries for its energy needs. While the Administration will predictably tie these leases up in Appeals court, this decision sends a clear message that the law will not be manipulated for political gain."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the administration would appeal the decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

President Obama "strongly believes -- as the Department of Interior and the Department of Justice argued yesterday -- that continuing to drill at these depths without knowing what happened ... does not make any sense" and potentially puts workers and the environment at risk, Gibbs said during the daily briefing.

Continued drilling also "potentially puts safety of those on the rigs and safety of the environment in the gulf at a danger that the president does not believe we can afford right now," Gibbs said.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman's decision prohibits the federal government from enforcing the ban, instituted after the Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP exploded April 20 and sank two days later, spewing oil unchecked into the gulf since. Eleven oil rig workers were killed.

The U.S. Interior Department had called for the six-month moratorium on drilling in more than 500 feet of water to investigate safety issues.

A group of companies that provide boats and equipment to the offshore drilling industry challenged the moratorium, claiming the government doesn't have evidence demonstrating existing operations threaten the gulf, CNN reported.

The group wants the moratorium declared invalid and unenforceable.



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