Judge Martin Feldman Strikes Down Moratorium, Holds Oil Stock

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 23, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In a harshly worded opinion, Federal District Court Judge Martin Feldman struck down the six-month moratorium on deep water drilling sought by the Obama Administration. The judge characterized the moratorium as overly-broad and based on the mistaken assumption that because one oil rig failed, all will fail.

Judge Feldman held the Administration's court papers were based on "incomprehensible" studies and made "factually incorrect" arguments that abused "reason (and) common sense." According to CBS News, Feldman called the Deepwater Horizon oil spill "an unprecedented, sad, ugly and inhuman disaster," but noted it was only the fourth such incident worldwide in 41 years, and the first ever in the Gulf of Mexico.

The judge was unconvinced that the failure of the Transocean rig would ultimately lead to the failure of others. "If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are? Are some airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines?" he wrote. "That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed and rather overbearing."

The Los Angeles Times reports in sharp contrast to the judge's strong words, was the news on Tuesday that according to his 2008 disclosure forms, Judge Feldman holds stock in not only a wide variety of energy companies, but in Transocean, Ltd., the company who owned the rig which exploded, causing what has been called the worst environmental disaster in our history.

According to the Huffington Post, in reaction to the news of the judge's holdings, many like Josh Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group, said the ruling should be rescinded if he still has investments in companies that could benefit from Tuesday's ruling. "If Judge Feldman has any investments in oil and gas operators in the Gulf, it represents a flagrant conflict of interest," Reichert said.

On the other side of the story, those who are supported by the oil business in the region, and who have been harmed along with the fishermen and those in the tourist trade, are eager to get back to work. Also according to the Huffington Post, the suit challenging the moratorium was filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services of Covington, La. CEO Todd Hornbeck said after the ruling that he is looking forward to getting back to work. "It's the right thing for not only the industry but the country."

The Obama Administration plans an appeal and is also seeking congressional action on the matter.

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