Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Surprise, Surprise

The NYT is reporting this afternoon that a Judge has blocked the Obama administration's 6-month moratorium on further drilling below 500 feet depth in the GOM (that strikes me as an extremely fitting initialism for the Gulf right now).
In a 22-page ruling, Judge Martin L. C. Feldman of Federal District Court issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of a May 28 order halting all floating offshore drilling projects in more than 500 feet of water and preventing the government from issuing new permits for such projects.

Citing the economic harm to businesses and workers in the gulf caused by the moratorium, Judge Feldman — a 1983 appointee of President Ronald Reagan — wrote that the Obama administration had failed to justify the need for the sweeping suspension, which he characterized as “generic, indeed punitive.”
To which the administration responded,
Mr. Gibbs said the president “strongly believes that continuing to drill at those depths without knowing what’s happened” in the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which killed 11 workers and left a well gushing out of control, “makes no sense” and puts people’s lives at risk.
I think that's about right: we don't know exactly what happened, and in fact we may never be able to determine the precise circumstances and chain of events that led to the blowout. But we can probably get a better understanding than we have now, and it's already clear that a lack of oversight on the part of MMS was a contributing factor. We cannot hope for a set of regulations that can guarantee accident-free oil drilling. However, it seems to me that there are a few that wouldn't be too economically restrictive, but would lead to a safer drilling environment. The purpose of the moratorium is not to be "punitive," but to allow our leaders to carefully examine the situation and figure out how to proceed from here.

The status quo has been tested and found lacking. Apparently, Feldman has a hard time seeing that. I wonder what could be impairing his vision? Hmmm... that's a toughie. Think Progress offers a suggestion:
Like many judges presiding in the Gulf region, Feldman owns lots of energy stocks, including Transocean, Halliburton, and two of BP’s largest U.S. private shareholders — BlackRock (7.1%) and JP Morgan Chase (28.3%). Here’s a list of Feldman’s income in 2008 (amounts listed unless under $1,000):

BlackRock ($12000- $36000)
Ocean Energy ($1000 – $2500)
NGP Capital Resources ($1000 – $2500)
Quicksilver Resources ($5000 – $15000)
Hercules Offshore ($6000 – $17500)
Provident Energy
Peabody Energy
PenGrowth Energy
Atlas Energy Resources
Parker Drilling
TXCO Resources
EV Energy Partners
Rowan Companies
BPZ Resources
El Paso Corp
Chesapeake Energy
ATP Oil & Gas
Shorter version: Federal Judge blocks Obama moratorium; cites danger of economic impact to his bank account.

1 comment:

Mule Breath said...

You seem adamant that the moratorium should be maintained. I disagree. The one-month initial moratorium was, I think, sufficient for the industry to regroup and rethink… and for the Interior Department to get off their asses and kick the oil industry cronies out. The government will learn no more in six months than they have in the past two. Any further delay in GOM exploration and production is unnecessary and damaging to an already damaged economy.

I say this with full understanding of the tremendous and continuing damage caused by BP’s Macando blowout, but continuing this moratorium achieves nothing except heaping permanent injury onto temporary insult. The industry has drilled several thousand wells in the GOM with negligible environmental impact, all the while providing good paying jobs to individuals from historically poverty-stricken regions of the country. Delay is costing thousands of jobs, many of which may never return.

With the spotlight on deficiencies in government regulation and industry safety systems, you can bet that attitudes like those of the drilling team running the Deepwater Horizon on that fateful day in April, will be run deep underground. We don’t need to make the blue collar folks of Louisiana and Mississippi suffer any more than they already have.