The New York Times is reporting that U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman this afternoon issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the Obama administration’s May 28 order imposing a six-month moratorium on all floating offshore drilling projects in more than 500 feet of water and preventing the government from issuing new permits for such activity.
The injunction was sought by numerous businesses affected by the order. And the office of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal filed a brief in support of blocking the moratorium.
A quick review of Judge Feldman’s 22-page opinion indicates that the injunction was granted, under the Administrative Procedures Act, because the plaintiffs “would likely succeed in showing that the [Interior Department’s] decision was arbitrary and capricious. An invalid agency decision to suspend drilling of wells in depths of over 500 feet simply cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country.”
Judge Feldman took particular note of the Interior secretary’s May 27 Report, from which its moratorium order followed: “Much to the government’s discomfort and this Court’s uneasiness, the Summary also states that ‘the recommendations contained in this report have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering.’” As has been widely reported, those “experts” never signed off on any such moratorium.
As the court went on to say, “After reviewing the Secretary’s Report, the Moratorium Memorandum, and the Notice to Lessees, the Court is unable to divine or fathom a relationship between the findings and the immense scope of the moratorium. …[T]he blanket moratorium, with no parameters, 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.”
Needless to say, the Obama administration is filing an immediate appeal. But for now, its sweeping moratorium is on hold.