Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Judge blocks drilling ban

NEW ORLEANS - A US judge ruled on Tuesday against a six-month freeze imposed on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, in a blow to the White House it immediately said it would appeal.

District judge Martin Feldman ruled in favour of 32 oil firms which challenged the moratorium on deepwater drilling and exploration imposed by President Barack Obama in the wake of the massive Gulf oil spill.

Judge Feldman ruled the oil firms' motion for a 'preliminary injunction is granted,' saying he was persuaded it was in the public interest to lift the freeze by the Minerals Management Service and the Interior Department.

'The court has found the plaintiffs would likely succeed in showing that the agency's decision was arbitrary and capricious,' Judge Feldman said in his written ruling after Monday's hearing in a New Orleans court.

'Some of the plaintiffs' contracts have been affected; the court is persuaded that it is only a matter of time before more business and jobs and livelihoods will be lost.' But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: 'We will immediately appeal to the fifth circuit.

'The president strongly believes, as the Department of Interior, Department of Justice argued yesterday, that continuing to drill at these depths without knowing what happened is - does not make any sense.' The drilling 'potentially puts the safety of those on the rigs and environment of the Gulf at a danger that the president does not believe we can afford right now'. -- AFP

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