Federal court finds Interior in contempt on Gulf moratorium 

A federal court in Louisana has found the Interior Department in contempt for violating an injunction barring enforcement of the first drilling moratorium issued by the agency following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf Of Mexico.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued the first moratorium June 22, 2010, but shortly thereafter federal District Judge Martin Feldman issued a temporary restraining order, which the government appealed. That appeal was denied and a few days later Salazar issued a second moratorium that was virtually identical to the first.

Judge Feldman was not impressed by Interior's claims that the second moratorium was different, and ruled that "the government did not simply reimpose a blanket moratorium; rather, each step the government took following the Court’s imposition of a preliminary injunction showcases its defiance:

"The government failed to seek a remand; it continually reaffirmed its intention and resolve to restore the moratorium; it even notified operators that though a preliminary injunction had issued, they could quickly expect a new moratorium.

"Such dismissive conduct, viewed in tandem with the reimposition of a second blanket and substantively identical moratorium and in light of the national importance of this case, provide this Court with clear and convincing evidence of the government’s contempt of this Court’s preliminary injunction Order."

In other words, Feldman said stop on the moratorium, the government effectively ignored the court, and the court in response now finds the government in contempt. Feldman also ordered the government to pay the legal fees incurred by energy companies that challenged the first moratorium.

Go here for a Politico story on Feldman's decision that includes a link to the full text. It's only an eight-page decision and Feldman's analysis of whether a White House official committed a crime in connection with evidence for the moratorium's alleged scientific basis makes for fascinating reading.

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