Decision coming soon on federal drilling ban

Michelle Massey Jun. 22, 2010, 10:49am

NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - After hearing two hours of arguments on Monday, U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman said he will issue a ruling by Wednesday on whether the six-month deepwater drilling moratorium is illegal.

Several Louisiana companies, led by Hornbeck Offshore Services, argued that the ban was arbitrary, not based on any evidence and violates the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OSCLA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

Hornbeck argued that the outer continental shelf drilling is not any more dangerous today than prior to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill on April 20.

The moratorium was issued by the Interior Department.

The Interior Department issued the ban on permits for new wells being drilled and ordered an immediate halt to drilling operations on 33 wells.

In response, Hornbeck Offshore Services filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department and the Minerals Management Service (MMS) on June 7 in federal court in New Orleans.

The companies are arguing the moratorium will result in thousands of workers losing their jobs and millions in lost wages. They are asking Judge Feldman to enjoin the moratorium and declare that the moratorium violates the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OSCLA) and also the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and Gov. Bobby Jindal filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs are represented by Carl Rosenblum, Grady Hurley, Alida Hainkel and Marjorie McKeithen of Jones, Walker, Waechter, Poitevent, Carrere & Denegre in New Orleans and John F. Cooney of Venable in Washington, D.C.

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