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Drilling Ban Showdown in Court

July 08, 2010
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The high-stakes showdown starts at 3 p.m. at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, where government lawyers will square off for one hour against drilling companies before a three-judge panel, according to Reuters. The Obama administration said it imposed the suspension of drilling below 500 feet to avoid another oil well blowout -- BP''s leaking undersea well in the Gulf of Mexico has soiled the shores of every U.S. Gulf Coast state. But drillers like Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc. won a reprieve when U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman said the moratorium was too broad and arbitrary. Feldman ruled last month that the Interior Department failed to adequately take into account the economic impact the drilling suspension would have on the industry as well as local communities. The Justice Department, which appealed, will argue that Feldman wrongly substituted his judgment in place of Interior Department expertise and that the moratorium was narrow by only affecting drilling at 33 sites. It will ask that his ruling be put on hold. The appeals court is expected to rule quickly after the rare oral argument on the stay request. Drilling companies want to get back to work, while the government wants to protect against another spill.

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