The Obama administration filed a brief [text, PDF] Tuesday asking a federal appeals court to reinstate the offshore drilling ban ordered after the BP oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in the Gulf of Mexico. The filing in the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] argues that the court should allow for the six-month offshore drilling moratorium to be reinstated because the government will likely win its appeal of the lower court's ruling. The lower court, the brief says, "misperceived Interior's authority, the rationale for the suspensions, and the relative harms present in the Gulf. Plaintiffs and amici rely on those same misperceptions in opposing the motion." Those against the moratorium argue that it will hurt the gulf economy [PBS report, video], but the federal government argues in the brief that the temporary ban is necessary:
The stakes are even higher now that it is hurricane season. The suspension orders give Interior time to further implement 22 already-identified new safety measures and to develop others as it gathers more information. Therefore, that decision was a rational exercise, under emergency circumstances, of Interior's substantial discretionary authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and its own regulations for suspending lease operations. The district court was wrong to substitute its judgment for Interior's and enjoin those suspensions.The district judge issued a preliminary injunction against the moratorium [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] last month, saying it was necessary because the ban caused irreparable harm to both the plaintiffssmall oil companies affected by the banand the public.
Last week, the US House of Representatives [official website] approved a bill [HR 5503 materials] that would increase compensation [JURIST report] for injured workers and victims' families that have filed claims against BP as a result of the oil spill. Calls for criminal and civil actions have been mounting against BP as evidence of the oil company's lack of proper compliance with regulations has come out. Two lawsuits were recently filed [JURIST report] against BP alleging violations of the Rackteer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) [18 USC § 1961 et seq.]. Last month, 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 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. 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.