U.S. Drill Ban a ‘Rational’ Response to Emergency, Salazar Says

The U.S. government said a ban on deep-water oil drilling is a rational response under emergency circumstances and should be reinstated immediately.

Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar said in documents filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans that his department acted responsibly by implementing the ban in response to “an unprecedented and ongoing disaster.”

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans on June 22 threw out the temporary ban imposed by federal regulators on oil and gas drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet. Calling the ban overly broad and punitive to the regional economy, he blocked the government from enforcing it.

Salazar asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans to keep the ban in place while regulators appealed that decision. Yesterday’s filing outlines Salazar’s rationale for upholding the moratorium.

“Interior had to take immediate action to minimize the risk of another spill,” Salazar said. “The stakes are even higher now that it is hurricane season.”

President Barack Obama imposed the suspension on deep-water drilling in reaction to the BP Plc oil spill, the worst in U.S. history, caused by the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig off the Louisiana coast in April. The ban is needed to protect public safety, the U.S. has argued in court papers.

Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc. and more than a dozen Louisiana offshore service and supply companies sued U.S. regulators to lift the ban, arguing they would suffer irreparable economic harm from the suspension in drilling.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal urged Feldman and the appellate court not to enforce the moratorium, which he said in court filings could eliminate as many as 20,000 of the state’s jobs if the suspension lasted 18 months.

The case is Hornbeck Offshore Services LLC v. Salazar, 2:10-cv-01663, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans). The appeal case is 10-30585, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (New Orleans).

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