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Judge Halts Drilling Moratorium, While U.S. To Probe BP Drill Site

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U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman on June 22 ordered an injunction against the federal government’s six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, issued one month after the April 20 explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil platform. The New Orleans-based judge agreed with the plaintiffs, oil services firms and others that the government was “arbitrary and capricious” in implementing the May 28 ban on new wells in more than 500 ft of water. Feldman said the government did not prove that the accident indicates a threat from the 33 rigs operating in the Gulf. The federal government said it will appeal to the New Orleans appellate court and is expected to request a stay to the injunction. Meanwhile, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board said on June 18 it will probe the “accidental chemical release” that destroyed the platform, killing 11 workers. The board, which previously investigated the fatal 2005 blast at a BP refinery in Texas that killed 15 site contract workers, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a letter it had “legal authority” to probe the latest BP incident but that it would “avoid duplication of effort” with other federal probes.

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