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Judge blocks offshore moratorium

The AP with the breaking news:

Judge blocks offshore drilling moratorium imposed by Obama administration after Gulf spill.


*** UPDATE *** NBC's Pete Williams has more on this story: Obama administration officials say they will move immediately to block the effect of a federal judge's order today on the offshore drilling moratorium.

Judge Martin Feldman of New Orleans, acting on a request from a group of oil drilling and related service companies, today enjoined the federal government from enforcing the six-month ban on new and existing offshore drilling operations that was imposed by the Interior Department on May 28. He said the moratorium went too far and would have a permanent and harmful effect on the economy of the Gulf states. "It is only a matter of time before more business and jobs and livelihoods will be lost," as a result of the moratorium, he said.

"The blanket moratorium, with no parameters, seems to assume that because one rig failed and although no one yet fully knows why, all companies and rigs drilling new wells over 500 feet also universally present an imminent danger" -- an assertion, Judge Feldman said, that is not supported by the evidence submitted by the government.

The judge said the government's legal brief trivialized the potential harm to the region's economy by saying that only a small portion of drilling rigs are affected by the moratorium. "The effect on employment, jobs, loss of domestic energy supplies caused by the moratorium as the plaintiffs (and other suppliers, and the rigs themselves) lose business, and the movement of the rigs to other sides around the world will clearly ripple throughout the economy in this region," he wrote.

As a practical matter, no company is going to resume drilling on the strength of this ruling, because the legal landscape could easily shift again. The Obama administration will now seek to get the judge's order put on hold while it prepares to take the issue to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.