U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman issued a preliminary injunction today barring the enforcement of Barack Obama's proposed six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling, arguing that the ban is too broad.The original ban was formally imposed on May 31. Soon after, an injunction against enforement of it was sought by a consortium of oil drilling companies.
The Government resisted, arguing among other things that the ban was a necessary measure for the public safety, discrete, limited to drilling in more than 500 feet of water, temporary in that it was for only six months, and well within the federal oversight responsibilities of the executive branch which administers and regulates offshore drilling in federal waters.
The judge who enjoined president Obama's six-month moratorium, numerous sources report, personally owns stock in Transocean, the lawful owner of the blown-up Deepwater Horizon rig. According to his last financial disclosure statement, Kate Sheppard writes for Rolling Stone, he also owns stock in numerous other oil drilling companies:
According to the most recently available financial disclosure form for District Court Judge Martin Feldman, he had holdings of up to $15,000 in Transocean in 2008. He has also recently owned stock in offshore drilling or oilfield service providers Halliburton, Prospect Energy, Hercules Offshore, Parker Drilling Co., and ATP Oil & Gas.The New York Times reports that in a 22-page ruling Judge Feldman "wrote that the Obama administration had failed to justify the need for the sweeping suspension, which he characterized as 'generic, indeed punitive.'" The entire ruling is available here. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said immediately that the Government would appeal the judge's order.
Ordinarily, any appeal would be heard by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sitting in New Orleans. As Ian Millhiser noted last week, however, in May "so many members of the right-wing Fifth Circuit were forced to recuse themselves from an appeal against various energy and chemical companies that there weren’t enough untainted judges left to allow the court to hear the case."
If that should be the case again, it's possible the case would pass immediately to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is scheduled to wind up its annual session June 30. First, however, it would have to go to Justice Antonin Scalia, another Reagan appointee and one of the most conservative justices in the federal judiciary. Scalia is the Supreme Court's designated justice for overseeing the Fifth Circuit.