Judge Won’t Budge, Obamoratorium In Retreat

A phone conference which did NOT happen this morning put an end – at least for now – to President Obama’s attempts to impose a six-month ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, as U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman refused to grant a delay in imposing his preliminary injunction against the Obamoratorium while Obama’s Interior Department appeals to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case comes from a suit filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services, a company which services oil rigs in the Gulf, and several other local firms whose business will be wiped out if Interior carries through with its drill ban.

Feldman had imposed a preliminary injunction in the case on Tuesday, his 22-page ruling laying down in no uncertain terms a notably low regard for the justification of the moratorium, its factual and legal basis and even the honesty and transparency (or lack thereof) behind its creation. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs promised an appeal Tuesday and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar yesterday testified before Congress that a new moratorium would be crafted that would satisfy Feldman’s concerns. Salazar’s testimony sent Hornbeck straight to the judge with an accusation that Salazar and Interior were attempting to defy his ruling – thus the emergency phone conference scheduled for today.

Feldman wasn’t in a mood for much discussion:

He had agreed to hold an emergency hearing by phone Thursday on a motion filed by several oilfield service companies who say the Obama administration is ignoring his ruling.

But the judge informed attorneys only minutes before the call was scheduled to start that he will rule without hearing oral arguments. The hearing would not have been open to the public.

See a copy of Feldman’s order, given “on the papers,” here.

Perhaps Feldman’s mood wouldn’t be so cranky toward the government and its friends in the environmental movement if they weren’t making death threats against him. The judge has been demonized by environmental groups who accuse him of a conflict of interest because he had stock in Haliburton and Transocean in 2008; Feldman says he sold those stocks long before this case came to light. All Fifth Circuit judges have their investment portfolios loaded into a computer system the Circuit has set up to automatically notify judges of a potential conflict of interest, but no alarm bells went off in Feldman’s case because of his stock sales. He granted motions made by environmental groups to see updated financial interest disclosures, which he said would be made available “as soon as their security protocol on the release of federal judges’ Financial Disclosure Reports has been satisfied.”

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