Most folks along the Gulf coast, regarding a view of an environmental apocalypse outside their figurative bay windows, might find it merely reasonable to insist on a halt to further drilling until what we suss out precisely what combination of inadequate technology, corporate arrogance and MIA government oversight and regulatory reach and enforcement led to perhaps the greatest man-made ecological catastrophe in U.S. history. But many coasters, in thrall apparently to oil interests, which seem by now masochistically bent on provoking federal overreach, have been loudly decrying President Obama's proposed six month moratorium on offshore development. The moratorium, as they say, will cost jobs in Louisiana. You know what else is costing jobs in Louisiana? Oil muck and disperants washing up on beaches. You know what will cost national taxpayers a fortune (Please don't tell me BP is going to pick up the whole tab for this) and will damage the ecosystem and tourist and fishing industries in ways we can't even imagine today? Yes, it's that oil spill again.
But these guys want to pick up the hammer and immediately bang it across their foreheads again by 86ing Obama's moratorium—surely the absolute minimum precautionary measure we should be committing to in light of a disaster of this scale—and they've found a federal judge willing to do their judicial drilling for them. Today U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans overturned the president's moratorium. "What seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of irreparable harm," he wrote. If I understand the judge, he's arguing there's no evidence—yet—to conclude that other deepwater sites are as marginally run as Deepwater Horizon was, but isn't the judge making in his turn another assumption, an assumption of competence and safety? Isn't that what the federal government means to discover during the moratorium? We certainly have evidence that the other sites could be as poorly conceived as Deepwater Horizon and that the oil industry is woefully, even comically unprepared to deal with deep water blowouts and a lot of it is killing Brown Pelicans and lapping up on the shores in the judge's home state.
I leave it for more lawyerly types to explain Feldman's deep, judgey thinking on this. To me his position simply seems preposterous, almost bought and paid for. I will say that based on the following information, Feldman had no business sitting in judgment over this matter and should have recused himself. From AP:
Feldman's financial disclosure report for 2008, the most recent available, shows holdings in at least eight petroleum companies or companies that invest in them, including Transocean Ltd., which owned the Deepwater Horizon. The report shows that most of his holdings were valued at less than $15,000, though it did not provide specific amounts.