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Judge Blocks US Offshore Drilling Ban

  • David Dyar

A federal judge in New Orleans has blocked a six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling projects imposed by the Obama administration in response to the massive Gulf oil spill. The court ruled Tuesday that the administration failed to give adequate reasons for suspending all new deepwater drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico.

A federal judge on Tuesday said that just because one oil rig fails, it doesn't mean all deepwater rigs pose the same risks. The White House, which has halted all new permits for deepwater drilling for six months, has promised to appeal. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. "Continuing to drill at these depths without knowing what happened does not make any sense and puts the safety of those involved and the environment in the Gulf at a danger that the president does not believe we can afford right now," he said.

But many welcomed the ruling. Among them Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. "Do not appeal this injunction. Listen to the judge. This moratorium is arbitrary and capricious," he said.

Despite the damage to coastal areas and wildlife, Walter Leger Jr. -- a lawyer for the fishing industry -- argued the ban on drilling only adds to the region's economic problems. "The moratorium could have even greater economic impact, not just on some of the fishing industry people who work part time in the oil industry, but in every aspect of our economy here in Louisiana,' he said.

Environmental groups say the ruling is a "step in the wrong direction." Catherine Wannamaker at the Southern Environmental Law Center insists a ban on all new drilling is a must, considering the risks. "There are new risks that we know about now that we didn't know about before the Deepwater Horizon spill. And we think that in that circumstance, a six-month moratorium is appropriate," she said.

Plaintiffs argued the federal government did not consult with local officials before imposing the moratorium -- a violation, they say, of federal law. New estimates show as much as 600 million liters of crude have spilled into the Gulf since the April 20 explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon.

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