Patterico's Pontifications


Stay Granted in Drilling Moratorium Case

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 5:59 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]

Almost a month ago, I wrote this about the latest ruling in the moratorium case:

[D]own in New Orleans Judge Feldman has ordered the Obama Administration to begin acting on drilling permits.  You might recall that Feldman ordered the administration to lift their moratorium on drilling months ago and the administration has been flouting the decision ever since, resulting in the administration being held in contempt.  Now he has given them a month to get off their behinds and act, although importantly he didn’t require them to accept the permits.  So the question is whether the administration will start acting honestly, will continue delaying the permits anyway, or deny them all as a giant “screw you” to Feldman.

Anyway, you can read the opinion, here, but my only commentary on it is that it is actually a very standard order of this kind.

Well, the Fifth Circuit yesterday granted a stay of Judge Feldman’s ruling:

A federal appellate court ruled Tuesday that the Obama administration doesn’t have to make a decision by Saturday on whether to approve five deepwater drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico, as a lower court ordered it do last month.

The ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stays a Feb. 17 decision by Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, while the appellate court considers the government’s appeal of Judge Feldman’s decision.

The ruling by Judge Feldman came in response to a lawsuit filed against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar by London-based Ensco PLC. It centers on five permit applications in which the company holds a stake and that have been pending at the department from four to nine months. Ruling for Ensco, Judge Feldman said the administration’s inaction on the requests is “increasingly inexcusable” and ordered Mr. Salazar’s agency to decide on them within 30 days.

The Interior Department has said the permit applications are flawed or incomplete, and that Judge Martin Feldman’s demand disrupts the normal back-and-forth negotiations between oil companies and federal regulators.

Now that is not, as this source claims, “overturning” Judge Feldman’s decision.  In theory the Fifth Circuit could come out and decide Feldman was right and let him impose a new deadline to deal with the claims.  But obviously from the perspective of the plaintiffs any further delay is a further defeat.

But it is interesting that apparently Salazar was threatening to simply deny all claims:

U.S. regulators threatened to deny the seven Gulf drilling permits that U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans singled out for quick action if they were forced to act by his deadlines. Feldman ordered government action by March 19 on five permits and by March 31 on two additional permits.

In other words, they were planning to send a message of “screw you” to Feldman.

But of course there is one company that Salazar considered worthy of a permit: BP.  Yes, really.

H/t: DRJ.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

12 Responses to “Stay Granted in Drilling Moratorium Case”

  1. ‘…send a message of “screw you”…’

    Nice, succinct summary of the administration’s entire domestic energy policy.

    “Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive”

    LibertyAtStake (22647b)

  2. Barack is intentionally killing our economy.

    DohBiden (984d23)

  3. Barack Obama hates jobs

    happyfeet (a55ba0)

  4. Jobs are evil,think about teh children


    DohBiden (984d23)

  5. btw, see the new post. it really bears on this.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  6. It’s a shame the 5th circuit backed down under political pressure. The correct thing would have been to let Feldman’s ruling stay in place until such time the decision was either affirmed or over ruled.
    I suspect the 5th circuit was afraid of pushing the pedal to the metal, if it upheld Feldman’s ruling, Feldman would have had no choice but to hold Salazar in contempt,jailing him if the government refused to budge. Perhaps the circuit was afraid to allow a situation where the government brazenly flouts a court order.

    cubanbob (409ac2)

  7. The oil and drilling companies aren’t the only ones hurting. The offshore marine industry, the Gulf Coast, and all Americans are suffering from President Obama’s de facto moratorium:

    Americans are asking, “Do we have to pay $7 a gallon for the sake of [Obama’s] political agenda?”

    Furthermore, our best equipment and highly trained workers are still being used by our foreign competitors.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  8. Isn’t a flat denial of applicants contempt on its face? Would not the Secretary run the risk of a personal contempt citation? Be fun to watch one of these clowns hauled off to jail, even if they got out right away.

    Kevin M (73dcc9)

  9. The multiple cases that have arisen out of this are confusing to me. Initially, the lead Plaintiff was Hornbeck and that’s the case in which the District Court held the government in contempt and ordered it to pay the Plaintiffs’ attorneys fees. There have been multiple entries in the District Court docket as Plaintiffs file sealed records of what I think are the bills from their attorneys. I’m sure the government is happy to keep Judge Feldman busy with this because, after all, it’s only taxpayer money. The Fifth Circuit proceedings in Hornbeck ended when the appeal of the moratorium was dismissed as moot last September in an unpublished opinion.

    However, there is another case in which the Plaintiff is ENSCO Offshore. Judge Feldman entered a permanent injunction last month in that case and I think the Fifth Circuit’s stay involves Judge Feldman’s ruling in that case. There are probably additional cases filed by other drilling companies affected by the Obama Administration’s moratorium.

    DRJ (fdd243)

  10. I’m still reeling from the approval of the BP permit. Not because I don’t think they can drill safely (I do have my concerned though). Because it was so political.

    It’s like fighting the pardon power by pardoning all the worst applicants.

    Every damn thing is political with Obama. He must not be confident in an economic recovery being possible as he plays these games.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  11. The problem, as I see it, is that the courts have no means of their own to enforce a ruling. The US Marshalls answer to Obama/Holder. Just as FDR openly defied the Supreme Court, Obama would certainly have no compunction about doing the same. Therefore this sets up a constitutional crisis. Who will enforce the Court’s rulings? Certainly not the Executive branch, And neither the Legislative nor the Judicial have the means to do so. THIS is the key to Obama’s plan. He can do anything he likes and it does not matter what Congress or the Judiciary say or do. He is the de facto dictator in all but name.

    Rorschach (c5574d)

  12. The problem, as I see it, is that the courts have no means of their own to enforce a ruling. The US Marshalls answer to Obama/Holder.

    This was my point in the thread above. The separation of powers means that neither the judiciary nor the legislature can force the executive to obey them. An administration, or any member of it, can be held in contempt of court or of Congress, but in both cases it’s up to the executive branch to press those charges, and it’s within its discretion not to. Forcing it to do so would mean subordinating it to the other two branches, which is the way the UK constitution developed in the 19th century, after the USA separated from it; but the USA constitution is based on the UK one as it stood in the late 18th century, when the executive was only just beginning to come under the legislature’s control, and that new development hadn’t caught on in the American colonies.

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

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