U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans Tuesday overturned the six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling projects imposed by the Obama administration after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. The White House says it will appeal the decision.

Led by Hornbeck Offshore Services and supported by Gov. Bobby Jindal, a group of companies that provide services to offshore drilling rigs had asked the federal court for a preliminary injunction blocking the moratorium, which halted the approval of any new permits for deepwater drilling and suspended drilling at 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf. The ban could potentially devastate the economies of the oil-dependent Gulf coast region.

It appears that Feldman's decision to grant Hornbeck's request will prevent the ban from taking effect.

Feldman says the Interior Department failed to provide adequate reasoning for the moratorium and assumed that because one rig failed, all companies doing deepwater drilling pose an imminent danger. In his decision, Feldman wrote:

This Court is persuaded that the public interest weighs in favor of granting a preliminary injunction. While a suspension of activities directed after a rational interpretation of the evidence could outweigh the impact on the plaintiffs and the public, here, the Court has found the plaintiffs would likely succeed in showing that the agency’s decision was arbitrary and capricious. An invalid agency decision to suspend drilling of wells in depths of over 500 feet simply cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country.

 

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