A Federal judge has blocked the six-month moratorium on offshore drilling ordered by President Obama following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
After listening to two hours of arguments from lawyers representing several Louisiana drilling companies, United States District Judge Martin Feldman granted a preliminary restraining order that will temporarily overturn the ban and allow deepwater drilling projects to resume.
Feldman ruled that the decision to impose the moratorium, which suspended drilling on 33 active wells off the Louisiana coastline, was "invalid," as it arbitrarily assumed that all deepwater drilling poses a threat to the surrounding community, according to the Associated Press (AP). He also suggested that the economic impact of the ban would be more harmful than any potential hazard associated with offshore drilling.
"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," ruled Feldman.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that the president would immediately appeal the judge’s decision, which "puts the safety of those on the rigs and the safety of the environment in the Gulf at a danger."
According to Public Policy Polling, the oil industry represents 16 percent of Louisiana’s GDP and accounts for nearly 20,000 local jobs.