After apologizing to experts, Salazar once again implied in court that they endorsed his moratorium 

Yesterday’s court decision suspending Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s moratorium on deepwater oil exploration has drawn fire because of past and possible current stock holdings by the presiding federal judge, Martin Feldman, in oil services companies. (UPDATE: As it turns out, the judge sold the stocks.) But considering the arguments Salazar submitted to the court, and their apparent contradiction with his earlier public statements, the ruling is not terribly surprising.

On June 10, Salazar had been forced to apologize for falsely implying that experts who peer-reviewed a Safety Report on the Deepwater Horizon rig’s explosion had endorsed his recommendation of a six-month deep-water drilling moratorium. In fact, the experts had never seen the recommendation, which was added after their involvement came to an end.

But the very next day, on June 11th, Salazar cited those experts once again in federal court documents defending the drilling moratorium.

In the June 11 court filing, Salazar’s legal team invoked the “Safety Report,” stating that it had been:

prepared with the benefit of consultations with experts from state and federal governments, academic institutions, and industry and advocacy organizations. As a result of that wide-ranging review, and the five-week discharge of hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico that preceded it, the Secretary concluded that “offshore drilling of new deepwater wells poses an unacceptable threat of serious and irreparable harm to wildlife and the marine, coastal, and human environment…”…Consequently, Secretary Salazar ordered a brief six-month moratorium on one particular segment of oil-drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf that uses similar technology to that used on the Deepwater Horizon, in order to give industry and the agencies time to assess how best to address the findings and recommendations contained in the Safety Report.

In the same document, Salazar noted that “the Safety Report came up with ten pages of specific recommendations” necessary to ensure safe drilling, again implying that the recommendations had been “prepared with the benefit of consultations with experts…” In the report, even before listing those ten recommendations, Salazar recommended the moratorium as the primary response to the oil spill. Its inclusion next to the expert recommendations provided this maneuver with a patina of scientific credibility.

This was Salazar’s argument to the Court, even though he had already apologized for presenting the Safety Report as though its recommendations had been peer-reviewed by experts. The filing came after the experts’ complaints:

“None of us actually reviewed the memorandum as it is in the report,” oil expert Ken Arnold told Fox News. “What was in the report at the time it was reviewed was quite a bit different in its impact to what there is now. So we wanted to distance ourselves from that recommendation.”

Judge Feldman, in his ruling against Salazar yesterday, noted the contradiction between Salazar’s apology and his court finding:

On May 27, 2010 the Secretary issued a Report, which reviews all aspects of drilling operations and recommends immediate and long term reforms to improve drilling safety. In the Executive Summary to the Report, the Secretary recommends “a six-month moratorium on permits for new wells being drilled using floating rigs.” He also recommends “an immediate halt to drilling operations on the 33 permitted wells, not including relief wells currently being drilled by BP, that are currently being drilled using floating rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.” Much to the government’s discomfort and this Court’s uneasiness, the Summary also states that “the recommendations contained in this report have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering.” As the plaintiffs, and the experts themselves, pointedly observe, this statement was misleading.

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