Federal court refuses to dismiss challenge to drilling ban … again

The White House suffered another defeat in federal court on an issue their own advisers have declared not worth fighting.  Judge Martin Feldman refused again to dismiss a challenge to the Obama administration’s drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico this afternoon, saying that their newly drafted ban didn’t differ enough from their first to render the lawsuit invalid:

Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc and other oil companies sued the government when it first ordered a halt to deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in May after BP Plc’s well rupture that killed 11 workers and caused the world’s worst offshore spill.

The drilling halt was subsequently amended, so the government sought to toss out the Hornbeck lawsuit, arguing it was no longer relevant.

But U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, who earlier this summer blocked the first drilling halt, said in a 20-page ruling that the government’s amended moratorium offered “no substantial changes” from the first one.

Even with a head start and a big hint, the White House can’t get a moratorium written properly enough to get around Feldman.  But the real question is why they bothered to try at all.  A study commissioned by Barack Obama’s panel on the Gulf spill reported last week that the ban is no longer necessary, if it ever was at all.  The new rules in place at MMS and in the Gulf have already addressed the risks discovered in the Deepwater Horizon blowout, and banning any further drilling isn’t increasing safety any longer.

That report should have rendered the whole debate moot.  With the economy declining, the 23,000 jobs this ban costs are sorely needed, especially in the Gulf region.  Instead of fighting in court to destroy those jobs and to cost Americans the necessary production for our energy needs so that other jobs can be created, the White House should be deep-sixing the moratorium and helping to get rigs on line and producing safely.

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