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US Judge Rules Against Maintaining Offshore Drilling Ban

A federal judge has denied a request by the Obama administration to overturn a judicial ruling that allows oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Obama administration had imposed a six-month moratorium on all deepwater drilling following the massive oil spill in the Gulf.

However, U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman on Tuesday blocked the government from enforcing the ban, saying the government assumed all deepwater oil rigs were in danger because one exploded.

Judge Feldman rejected a government motion Thursday to overturn his decision. The government can still appeal the judge's order.

U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the ban May 27 following the explosion and fire that killed 11 people on a drilling platform and caused the massive, ongoing oil spill in the Gulf.

Meanwhile, efforts to contain the spill continue. A cap on the leaking oil well in the Gulf is back in place, after a disruption allowed oil to spew freely into the water for most of the day Wednesday.

Oil giant BP says it reinstalled the containment cap late Wednesday and began once again capturing oil that is leaking from the ruptured well.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. government's spill response team told VOA Thursday that engineers are still assessing whether the cap is working as well as it did before it was removed.

She says some 16,800 barrels of oil were captured or burned off in the 24-hour period ending Wednesday night. This is about 10,000 barrels less than was collected or burned off before the 11-hour shutdown of the system on Wednesday.

Officials say an undersea robot bumped the containment system, forcing BP to remove the cap to check for damage. While the cap was not in place, oil gushed unchecked from the well.

Officials say severe weather had hampered recovery and clean-up operations in the Gulf Wednesday, and scattered storms are again forecast for Thursday.

U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen says that before the cap was removed, BP contained or burned off more than 27,000 barrels of oil Tuesday, the highest amount since the cap was installed three weeks ago.

In related news, a spokesman for the U.S. Treasury Department said one of its senior officials, Kenneth Feinberg, will step down in the coming weeks to focus on running BP's $20 billion clean-up fund.

The money is supposed to compensate victims of the Gulf oil spill.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.