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Judge Who Blocked Drilling Moratorium Has Oil Industry Ties

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, June 23, 2010 11:55 AM EST
Category: In The Workplace
Tags: Oil Rigs, Halliburton, BP, Gulf of Mexico, Conflict-of-Interest, Environmental Health, Environmental Hazard

Financial Ties Revealed


IMAGE SOURCE: U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman/ NY Daily News Web site

U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman, who overturned President Obama’s deepwater drilling ban reportedly has financial ties to the oil industry he just protected.

The federal judge from New Orleans on Tuesday lifted the six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling projects covering wells 500 feet deep and below.

The moratorium suspended drilling in 33 wells and was imposed in response to the tragedy in the Gulf caused by BP, Transocean and Halliburton, among other companies.

Judge Feldman said the administration acted rashly in imposing the ban just because one rig failed.

"If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are? Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines? That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather overbearing,” Feldman wrote. The judge was concerned about the jobs threatened by the idling of the rigs.

The New York Daily News is reporting on financial disclosure reports that show Judge Feldman owned about $15,000 in Transocean Ltd stock in 2008 as well as investments in Halliburton.

Judicial Watch, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., posted Judge Feldman’s 2008 financial disclosure form online. It includes, besides the Transocean stock, ownership in five other companies involved in the offshore drilling business.

The Associated Press reports that more than half of the federal judges in the Eastern District of Louisiana have investments in the oil and gas industry.

U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon of New Orleans alerted the court clerk not to allot cases to her docket because of her ownership of BP stock, reports AP.

Transocean is a drilling company that owned the Deepwater Horizon rig and Halliburton was providing cementing services aboard the rig when it exploded April 20, killing 11 employees and spilling the worst oil spill in U.S. history into the Gulf of Mexico. The spill is still not contained.

The president imposed the ban because there is not enough expertise on how to correct problems at that depth.

Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar said the White House plans to appeal. Salazar said a new order will contain additional justification why a six-month drilling ban is necessary.

"I will issue a new order in the coming days that eliminates any doubt that a moratorium is needed, appropriate, and within our authorities," Salazar said in a statement.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at the time of the moratorium, “Continuing to drill at these depths without knowing what happened does not make any sense and puts the safety of those involved and the environment in the Gulf at a danger that the president does not believe we can afford right now.”

Judge Feldman was appointed to the bench in 1983 by then President Ronald Reagan. #

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