US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar [official profile] confirmed Tuesday that the Department of Justice [official website] will appeal [press release] a federal court decision to issue a preliminary injunction against a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling [JURIST reports]. The ban was issued last month by the Obama administration in response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Salazar stated that the the ban on deepwater drilling was the "right decision" and is necessary to protect the communities and environment of the Gulf coast. The secretary criticized the court's ruling, stating the government has clear evidence that the moratorium is needed to prevent irreparable harm and is therefore not arbitrary:
We see clear evidence every day, as oil spills from BP's well, of the need for a pause on deepwater drilling. 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. The evidence also continues to mount that industry needs to raise the bar on blowout prevention, containment, and response planning before deepwater drilling should continue. Based on this ever-growing evidence, I will issue a new order in the coming days that eliminates any doubt that a moratorium is needed, appropriate, and within our authorities.The injunction was sought in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] by several small oil companies affected by the ban. The companies claimed that the imposition of a general moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was contrary to federal law. Judge Martin Feldman held that the injunction was necessary because the ban caused irreparable harm to both the plaintiffs and the public, and the Obama administration considered no alternatives when enacting the blanket moratorium.
Last week, US President Barack Obama [official website] announced the government's latest plan of action for tackling the oil spill, which includes a $20 billion compensation fund [JURIST reports] subsidized by BP. The newly-established escrow fund [government backgrounder] will be used to indemnify the workers and business owners harmed as a result of the oil spill. The announcement also included a long-term restoration plan and prevention of future disasters [JURIST report] through stronger regulation. Additionally last week, Obama announced the appointment of Micheal Bromwich [press release], a former federal prosecutor and Inspector General for the Justice Department, as head of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) [official website], which has been plagued with corruption and notorious for its cozy relationship with oil companies. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a result of an oil well blowout that caused an explosion 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf. More than 120 million gallons of oil have leaked already from the rig's broken pipe and has now surpassed the Exxon Valdez [JURIST news archive] as the worst oil spill in US history. The White House is keeping a daily chronology of events [text].