A federal judge in New Orleans on Tuesday blocked a six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling projects imposed in response to the massive Gulf oil spill.
The White House said the administration would appeal. It had halted approval of any new permits for deepwater drilling and suspended drilling at 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf.
Several companies that ferry people and supplies and provide other services to offshore drilling rigs asked U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans to overturn the moratorium, arguing it was arbitrarily imposed.
Feldman agreed, saying in his ruling that the Interior Department failed to provide adequate reasoning for the moratorium. He said it seemed to assume that because one rig failed, all companies and rigs doing deepwater drilling pose an imminent danger.
"An invalid agency decision to suspend drilling of wells in depths of over 500 feet simply cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country," Feldman wrote.