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Fifth Circuit Fails To Reinstate Drilling Moratorium; Interior Could Issue Separate Order

A three-judge panel in New Orleans has rejected the Obama Administration’s plea to reinstate their moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling while their appeal to a lifting of that moratorium is heard.

The Interior Department said the moratorium was necessary while it studied deepwater drilling risks in the wake of the BP oil spill.

The judges seemed to disagree about who should be shown more deference: District Judge Martin Feldman, who struck down the moratorium, or the authority of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who proclaimed it […]

The appeals court ruling found that the Interior Department failed to show the federal government would suffer “irreparable injury” if the ban isn’t restored while it appeals the lower court’s decision.

I guess another million gallons of oil per day in an already polluted Gulf doesn’t sound very “irreparable.”

Two of the judges who participated in the decision have extensive ties to the oil and gas industry and have repeatedly represented them in the past as lawyers when they were in private practice. The third judge has energy stock holdings totaling as much as $300,000.

The Interior Department is expected to reissue a separate moratorium, perhaps as early as today, in response to the ruling. Failing that, they can argue out the case on appeal, but that could take months to arrive at a final verdict, longer than the proposed moratorium.

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David Dayen

David Dayen