Salazar: Drilling Moratorium 'Right Decision'

(Dow Jones Newswires), June 23, 2010

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that the Obama administration's decision to impose a moratorium on deepwater drilling "was and is the right decision."

Salazar's comments were aimed at a federal judge in Louisiana who ruled Tuesday against the administration's temporary ban on deepwater offshore drilling, dealing a blow to the government's response to a Gulf of Mexico oil spill that continues to grow. Salazar said the Justice Department is appealing the court ruling.

Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ordered the U.S. Department of Interior to "immediately" stop enforcing the moratorium until a full trial on its merits occurs.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed in early June by Hornbeck Offshore, a small oil-services company based in Covington, La., that said it would be crippled because of the six-month ban, decreed on May 28 by the Interior Department after the spill at a BP-operated well.

Salazar said the moratorium is needed to protect Gulf Coast communities and the environment, and to ensure that oil companies are able to prevent oil-well blowouts, like the one that occurred at BP's Macondo well, as well as respond to oil spills and to contain spilled oil, "before deepwater drilling should continue.

"We see clear evidence every day, as oil spills from BP's well, of the need for a pause on deepwater drilling," Salazar said in a statement. "That evidence mounts as BP continues to be unable to stop its blowout, notwithstanding the huge efforts and help from the federal scientific team and most major oil companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico."

Salazar said he will issue "a new order" in the coming days "that eliminates any doubt that a moratorium is needed, appropriate, and within our authorities."

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