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Breaking: Judge rules against Obamatorium on drilling; link to decision added; Interior Secy Salazar roasted

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By Michelle Malkin  •  June 22, 2010 01:51 PM

News just coming in on judge’s decision in drilling case. Stand by.

Via Bloomberg:

A New Orleans federal judge lifted the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed by President Barack Obama following the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Obama temporarily halted all drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet on May 27 to give a presidential commission time to study improvements in the safety of offshore operations. Government lawyers told U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman that the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig off the Louisiana coast in April was a “game changer’’ that exposed the risks of offshore oil exploration.

“We need to make sure deepwater drilling is as safe as we thought it was the day before this incident,’’ Brian Collins, a lawyer for the government, told Feldman in a court hearing June 21. “It is crucial to take the time because to fail to do so would be to gamble with the long-term future of this region.’’

More than a dozen Louisiana offshore service and supply companies sued U.S. regulators to lift the ban. State officials claim 20,000 Louisiana jobs are in jeopardy if the deepwater drilling suspension lasts 18 months…

…Lawyers for the drilling companies told Feldman the moratorium illegally sidesteps a required industry comment period. They also said regulators failed to tell Obama that all active deepwater rigs passed an immediate re-inspection after the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, with only two rigs reporting minor violations and the rest getting approval to continue operations.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal asked Feldman on June 20 to lift the ban in 30 days after the judge imposes more stringent safety and oversight procedures. Such rules would incorporate the results of several ongoing drilling safety studies, including that of the presidential commission, Jindal and Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell wrote in court papers.

White House says it will appeal the injunction. Headed to 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Hill has quotes from WH spokesman Robert Gibbs.

You can read the decision here (hat tip: Jamie Dupree).

Judge Feldman homes in on blatant lies incorporated into Deepwater report by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. His head should roll:

In the Executive Summary to the Report, the Secretary [Salazar] recommends “a six-month moratorium on permits for new wells being drilled using floating rigs.” He also recommends “an immediate halt to drilling operations on the 33 permitted wells, not including relief wells currently being drilled by BP, that are currently being drilled using floating rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.”

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 the plaintiffs, and the experts themselves, pointedly observe, this statement was misleading. The experts charge it was a “misrepresentation.” It was factually incorrect. Although the experts agreed with the safety recommendations contained in the body of the main Report, five of the National Academy experts and three of the other experts have publicly stated that they “do not agree with the six month blanket moratorium” on floating drilling.

Takeaway from decision: “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. The Report, invoked by the Secretary, describes the offshore oil industry in the Gulf and offers many compelling recommendations to improve safety. But it offers no time line for implementation, though many of the proposed changes are represented to be implemented immediately. The Report patently lacks any analysis of the asserted fear of threat of irreparable injury or safety hazards posed by the thirty-three permitted rigs also reached by the moratorium.”

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