Obama Administration Formally Asks For The Ban on Deepwater Drilling to be Reinstated

From Sunlen Miller

As promised, in a court filing late yesterday the Obama administration asks the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the ban on deepwater drilling the Gulf.

“The district court was wrong to substitute its judgment for Interior’s and enjoin those suspensions,” the court filing states, “This Court should stay the district court’s order. “

The six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling, they say, was necessary in an “unprecedented and ongoing disaster.”

“The district court’s order preliminarily enjoining that action misperceived Interior’s authority, the rationale for the suspensions, and the relative harms present in the Gulf,” the filing writes, “Because this deepwater spill has been impossible to fully contain, Interior had to take immediate action to minimize the risk of another spill, especially while efforts to contain and clean up this one are ongoing. The stakes are even higher now that it is hurricane season.”

The moratorium– the filing argues – gives Interior time to further implement the new safety measures and develop more as they go.

On June 22nd a federal judge in New Orleans ruled to block the six-month moratorium on offshore drilling, challenged in court by Hornbeck Offshore Services, a Louisiana firm, arguing that the economic loss of the moratorium would be hard felt for the region.

“This Court is persuaded that the public interest weighs in favor of granting a preliminary injunction," the decision said in June when it came down. “While a suspension of activities directed after a rational interpretation of the evidence could outweigh the impact on the plaintiffs and the public, here, the Court has found the plaintiffs would likely succeed in showing that the agency’s decision was arbitrary and capricious.”

When the decision came down in June, the White House then said they would “immediately appeal” the decision.

"We will immediately appeal to the 5th circuit,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said on June 22nd, “The president 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 is -- does not make any sense.”

In the wake of the Gulf oil spill, the administration ordered a moratorium on all offshore oil and gas drilling activity from floating drilling rigs until the president’s commission on the BP incident has completed a more thorough review. The moratorium was extended by six months in late May and applies to wells in waters above the depth of 500 feet, including 33 deep water rigs that had been permitted in the Gulf of Mexico.

-Sunlen Miller

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