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Rep. Bill Flores, R-TX, opposes Obama ocean policies and strips $150M from Hurricane Sandy relief bill

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ANALYSIS:

The first attack in the 113th Congress on President Obama’s ocean policy, which include strengthening regional partnerships through the assistance of federal grants, was filed by ongoing opponent to the President’s National Ocean Policy, Rep. Bill Flores (Republican from a landlocked district in Texas).

image of Rep. Bill Flores

Rep. Bill Flores, former oil and gas driller from the Waco, TX area consistently opposes anything that is related to the President’s National Ocean Policy. His amendment to the Hurricane Sandy Relief strips 150K in funding for regional ocean partnerships.

House Amendment 6 to the House version of H.R.152 : Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013 (aka Hurricane Sandy relief), reads as follows:

“AMENDMENT PURPOSE:
An amendment numbered 2 printed in Part C of House Report 113-1 to strike $150,000,000 for Regional Ocean Partnership grants.”

On January 15, 2013 the Flores amendment (A004) was agreed to by recorded vote: 221 – 197 (Roll no. 16)

The votes for and against are listed below.

On Monday afternoon of January 28, 2013, the Senate plans to take up the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013, with only one amendment expected to be introduced – Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah has proposed an amendment that would offset the $50.5 billion in emergency aid (lawmakers are expected to reject that amendment), allowing final passage of the Senate bill later Monday night. No Senate amendments to oppose the House language and reinstate the Regional Ocean Partnership grants are anticipated.

inage of map of Congressional District 17 in Texas

Rep. Bill Flores represents the 17th Congressional District in Texas, an area south of Dallas that includes Waco and College Station. His dogged opposition to President Obama’s National Ocean Policy seems odd, given his district’s geography, until the fact emerges that in 2005 prior to coming to Congress Flores served on served on board of Phoenix Exploration Company, Marine Drilling Companies, Inc.  Offshore oil drilling companies generally prefer the status quo, and as such oppose President Obama’s efforts to create a system that rationally and openly determines which of the conflicting offshore uses are most in the national interest.

When looking to the motivations of those who oppose changes to the current first-come-first-served irrational way we currently permit offshore uses in the USA, allegiances to the traditional users (extractive industries such as oil and gas production or mining) or the new users (green energy such as wind and wave power) of the coasts are worth examining.

According to the homepage for Rep. Flores at http://flores.house.gov, Flores “worked in the energy industry for nearly three decades. During that time, he served as a CFO, COO or CEO for successful energy companies, ultimately serving as President and CEO of Phoenix Exploration Company, an oil and gas company focused upon the discovery of American oil and gas.”

The author of this blog is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy, government relations and strategic communications firm in Washington, DC.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert and on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/willnuckols/

*the original article headline mistakenly indicated a $150K cut in funding, while the article noted correctly the cuts were $150M. The headline has been corrected to match the content of the article.

FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 16, Flores Amendment to strip funding for Regional Ocean Partnerships

(Republicans in roman; Democrats in italic; Independents underlined)

H R 152      RECORDED VOTE      15-Jan-2013      6:39 PM
AUTHOR(S):  Flores of Texas Part C Amdt. No. 2 to Frelinghuysen of New Jersey Amdt.
QUESTION:  On Agreeing to the Amendment

Ayes

Noes

PRES

NV

Republican

214

14

4

Democratic

7

183

10

Independent
TOTALS

221

197

 

14

—- AYES    221 —

Aderholt
Amash
Amodei
Bachmann
Bachus
Barr
Barton
Benishek
Bentivolio
Bilirakis
Bishop (UT)
Black
Blackburn
Bonner
Boustany
Brady (TX)
Bridenstine
Brooks (AL)
Brooks (IN)
Broun (GA)
Buchanan
Bucshon
Burgess
Calvert
Camp
Campbell
Cantor
Capito
Carney
Carter
Cassidy
Chabot
Chaffetz
Coble
Coffman
Cole
Collins (GA)
Collins (NY)
Conaway
Cook
Cotton
Cramer
Crawford
Cuellar
Culberson
Daines
Davis, Rodney
Denham
Dent
DeSantis
DesJarlais
Diaz-Balart
Duffy
Duncan (SC)
Duncan (TN)
Ellmers
Farenthold
Fincher
Fleischmann
Fleming
Flores
Forbes
Fortenberry
Foxx
Franks (AZ)
Gardner
Garrett
Gibbs
Gibson
Gingrey (GA)
Gohmert
Goodlatte
Gosar
Gowdy
Granger
Graves (GA)
Graves (MO)
Green, Gene
Griffin (AR)
Griffith (VA)
Guthrie
Hall
Hanna
Harper
Harris
Hartzler
Hastings (WA)
Heck (NV)
Hensarling
Herrera Beutler
Holding
Hudson
Huelskamp
Huizenga (MI)
Hultgren
Hunter
Hurt
Issa
Jenkins
Johnson (OH)
Johnson, Sam
Jones
Jordan
Joyce
Kelly
Kind
King (IA)
Kinzinger (IL)
Kline
Labrador
LaMalfa
Lamborn
Lankford
Latham
Latta
Long
Lucas
Luetkemeyer
Lummis
Marchant
Marino
Massie
Matheson
McCarthy (CA)
McCaul
McClintock
McHenry
McKeon
McKinley
McMorris Rodgers
Meadows
Meehan
Messer
Mica
Miller (FL)
Miller (MI)
Miller, Gary
Mullin
Mulvaney
Murphy (PA)
Neugebauer
Noem
Nugent
Nunnelee
Olson
Palazzo
Paulsen
Pearce
Perry
Peterson
Petri
Pittenger
Pitts
Poe (TX)
Pompeo
Posey
Price (GA)
Radel
Reed
Reichert
Renacci
Ribble
Rice (SC)
Rigell
Roby
Roe (TN)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Rogers (MI)
Rohrabacher
Rokita
Rooney
Ros-Lehtinen
Roskam
Ross
Rothfus
Royce
Ryan (WI)
Salmon
Scalise
Schock
Schrader
Schweikert
Scott, Austin
Sensenbrenner
Sessions
Shuster
Simpson
Smith (NE)
Smith (TX)
Southerland
Stewart
Stivers
Stockman
Stutzman
Terry
Thompson (PA)
Thornberry
Tipton
Turner
Upton
Valadao
Wagner
Walberg
Walden
Walorski
Weber (TX)
Webster (FL)
Wenstrup
Westmoreland
Whitfield
Williams
Wilson (SC)
Wittman
Wolf
Womack
Woodall
Yoder
Yoho
Young (AK)
Young (IN)

—- NOES    197 —

Alexander
Andrews
Barber
Barletta
Barrow
Bass
Beatty
Becerra
Bera
Bishop (GA)
Bishop (NY)
Blumenauer
Bonamici
Brady (PA)
Braley (IA)
Brown (FL)
Brownley (CA)
Bustos
Butterfield
Capps
Capuano
Carson (IN)
Cartwright
Castor (FL)
Castro (TX)
Chu
Cicilline
Clarke
Clay
Clyburn
Cohen
Connolly
Conyers
Cooper
Costa
Courtney
Crowley
Cummings
Davis (CA)
Davis, Danny
DeFazio
DeGette
Delaney
DeLauro
DelBene
Deutch
Dingell
Doggett
Doyle
Duckworth
Edwards
Ellison
Engel
Enyart
Eshoo
Esty
Farr
Fattah
Fitzpatrick
Foster
Frankel (FL)
Frelinghuysen
Fudge
Gabbard
Gallego
Garamendi
Garcia
Gerlach
Grayson
Green, Al
Grijalva
Grimm
Gutierrez
Hahn
Hanabusa
Hastings (FL)
Heck (WA)
Higgins
Himes
Hinojosa
Holt
Honda
Horsford
Hoyer
Huffman
Israel
Jeffries
Johnson, E. B.
Kaptur
Keating
Kennedy
Kildee
Kilmer
King (NY)
Kuster
Lance
Langevin
Larsen (WA)
Larson (CT)
Lee (CA)
Levin
Lewis
Lipinski
LoBiondo
Loebsack
Lofgren
Lowenthal
Lowey
Lujan Grisham (NM)
Luján, Ben Ray (NM)
Lynch
Maffei
Maloney, Carolyn
Maloney, Sean
Markey
Matsui
McCarthy (NY)
McCollum
McDermott
McGovern
McIntyre
McNerney
Meeks
Meng
Michaud
Miller, George
Moore
Moran
Murphy (FL)
Nadler
Neal
Nolan
O’Rourke
Owens
Pallone
Pascrell
Pastor (AZ)
Payne
Pelosi
Perlmutter
Peters (CA)
Peters (MI)
Pingree (ME)
Pocan
Polis
Price (NC)
Quigley
Rahall
Rangel
Richmond
Roybal-Allard
Ruiz
Runyan
Ruppersberger
Rush
Ryan (OH)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Sarbanes
Schakowsky
Schiff
Schneider
Scott (VA)
Scott, David
Serrano
Sewell (AL)
Shea-Porter
Sherman
Shimkus
Sinema
Sires
Slaughter
Smith (NJ)
Smith (WA)
Swalwell (CA)
Takano
Thompson (CA)
Tiberi
Tierney
Titus
Tonko
Tsongas
Van Hollen
Vargas
Veasey
Vela
Velázquez
Visclosky
Walz
Wasserman Schultz
Waters
Watt
Waxman
Welch
Wilson (FL)
Yarmuth
Young (FL)

—- NOT VOTING    14 —

Cárdenas
Cleaver
Crenshaw
Emerson
Jackson Lee
Johnson (GA)
Kingston
Kirkpatrick
Napolitano
Negrete McLeod
Nunes
Schwartz
Speier
Thompson (MS)

13,0000 gallons spilled by Shell on Sunday. In the Gulf of Mexico, spills remain an all too common occurence.

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Transocean Deepwater Nautilus Drilling Platform

"Equipment failure" at the Transocean Deepwater Nautilus Drilling Platform, operating for Shell Oil in the Gulf of Mexico 20 miles from the site of the Transocean/BP Macondo well blowout, spilled over 13,000 gallons of oil and drilling fluid into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday December 18, 2011

On Sunday December 18, 2011 there has been a reported release of 13,000 gallons of oil and drilling fluids into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, some mere 20 miles from the site of the BP / Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Once again the drill rig is a Transocean Deepwater series rig, similar to the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform that was lost following loss of control of the wellhead.

While the driller, Transocean, is the same, the company they work for is different. In this case it isn’t BP, but rather Shell Oil, a company who extolled its safety programs and harshly criticized BP’s plans in the waves of criticism and finger pointing following the disaster at the Macondo well which spilled millions of gallons of oil and resulted in the loss of human lives.

Shell, which has been promoting its ability to operate safely, is the same company who is getting incrementally closer to achieving all the required permits for it to drill in the Arctic under conditions that some are too hazardous for any company to risk, given the sensitivity of the arctic environment and the questionable ability to address accidents including oil spills which could result from the drilling activity.

The fact that spill free drilling operations are not, in any real world conditions, possible continues to prove itself.

12/20/11 UPDATE: Shell reports that the fluid loss was synthetic drilling fluids, which they say are biodegradable. The fact that accidents, even in areas near the BP Macondo well spill which have heightened scrutiny, continue to occur, and the releases of materials are not gallons but tens of thousands of gallons, remains alarming.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert

 

 


A year after the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, can we look for efficiencies as we move forward?

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photo of the drilling platform Deepwater Horizon

Transoceans Deepwater Horizon drilling platform was ablaze one year ago in the Gulf of Mexico. Now having had some time to step back, can we look to include some efficiencies as we guard against the next oil spill?

A question posed for the expert panel at the Smithsonian Institute’s event “One Year After the Gulf Oil Spill” at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC:

“There have been seemingly endless calls for “making sure nothing like this happens again” and accomplishing this ensuring that there are dramatic increases in response capabilities, both at the surface and at the challenging depths where drilling occurs. And there has also been a community of research scientists lamenting the limited availability of manned and unmanned craft which can readily access the depths to study the effects of the spill from the Macondo Prospect, or even doing simple background research before another event occurs in the future.

We need to combine these two concepts and use logic to drive a call for a discussion on the use of technologies which are very limited in their supply.

Do we want to develop large cashes of response equipment on perpetual standby, or should we call for a fleet of dual-use craft that could be used for major leaps forward in scientific study while also serve as emergency response technology in the case of accidents? A realistic view of resources, especially in this economy, says we can’t have a robust deep sea scientific program and also a robust set of emergency response deep sea craft that sits idle. Why not develop a program that maximizes day-to-day benefits for America through exploration and scientific study and also serves as the greatly improved deep sea response team that could be mobilized to address future undersea accidents?

And if you are looking at the government sector as a way to enhance the private sector (or as a guarantee that America’s assets are protected no matter how private sector interests react with their response), why not dramatically increase the oil spill and deep sea recon and salvage capabilities of the Navy’s office of the Supervisor of Salvage? We need those assets in our DoD portfolio as well – why not expand on the capabilities already there through a substantial increase in investment in Navy technologies, and when we do, make sure that the assets serve civilian needs when the military mission allows for their multiple use? We have a track record of success as the basis for civ-mil cooperation – think of the Navy’s NR-1 submarine and the civilian applications it also served. Why isn’t this approach being considered for the gulf?

-William Nuckols, Ocean Policy Expert and Government Efficiency Advocate”

A port bow view of the nuclear-powered research submersible NR-1

The Navy’s research submarine NR-1, recently decommissioned, is an example of how we can combine military defense needs efficiently with civilian needs to access deep offshore waters

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

Written by Will Nuckols

April 20, 2011 at 9:40 pm

A sadly ironic anniversary present for the United States

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Twenty-two years ago today an ecological disaster which at that time was unprecedented in scale resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil which covered wildlife and impacted the shoreline in a way that locals on the Alaska coast say continues to this day.  We know that accident as the Exxon Valdez oil spill. 

photo of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989

The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska 22 years ago on March 24, 1989. On this anniversary a mysterious oil sheen oozes toward the shores of Louisiana giving us a little nudge to make sure that even in a news cycle which has moved on to tsunamis and nuclear accidents we don't forget the unfinished business of developing a safe system for offshore oil and gas development

Never again. 

That’s what we told ourselves, and for years we went without another major oil spill in the offshore waters of the U.S.  But anyone who has picked up a paper, seen the nightly news, or listened to the radio knows that on one fateful night aboard the Transocean Horizon platform which was closing out their work at the BP Macondo well, a major blowout and loss of containment at the drill site occurred resulting in another major oil spill. 

Again, we said never again.  

Never will we be caught unaware and have uncontrolled oil released into the fragile environment of our coastal waters.

But today, on the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill, offshore on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico we are seeing oil sheens that extend for miles on the surface, leaving us again wondering what is the source of the oil, how much oil is there, and when will the leaks stop.

The Houston based company Anglo-Suisse Offshore Partners has accepted responsibility for an oil spill from a dormant well, reporting to the Coast Guard that they are responsible for the uncontrolled release of less than five gallons of crude oil. Somehow a five gallon release doesn’t make much sense to those with a healthy amount of common sense as the slick on the water has been reported to be over 30 miles long.

A realistic look at the offshore oil and gas development industry tells us that, without driving costs up inordinately, a spill-free world isn’t realistic.  What we need to search for is a set of voluntary and mandatory guidelines that keeps workers out of harm’s way, minimizes the changes that additional spills will occur and has robust systems in place to address spills when they occur – systems that would include rapidly deployable assets to contain leaks as well as systems to capture leaked oil and rehabilitate damaged ecosystems and communities when leaks occur.  It sound s easy.  So easy one would have guessed that such as system was in place before the explosion and loss of the Deepwater Horizon platform. But real world experiences inform us that we are consistently not prepared to address all three components of a robust response system.  And even when we have what we believe are the right assets in place, the profit margins of companies are put to odds with the precautionary principle and we under-plan our response capabilities.

It is time to be a good bit more conservative when we look to balance environmental safety against short-term profits.  Ideally corporations would strike this balance on their own, as other than the oddities of limits on liabilities which the oil and gas companies enjoy, oil and gas companies want to reduce accidents as accident-free operations helps the bottom line. But corporations, like individuals, sometimes fail to act in their own self-interest, leaving an important role for a government system that compels companies to act responsibly.

Bombings in Libya, the wackiness of an ongoing series of super short duration spending bills on Capitol Hill, tsunamis and disasters at nuclear plants are already drawing the public attention to other things, and for those in places other than the still hard hit Gulf Coast, attention has turned away from oil and gas drilling accidents to other issues.

Perhaps a mysterious oil spill on the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez accident is just what we need to stay on track and finish efforts already underway to determine where and how oil and gas development should occur in the U.S. and the contingency plans we’ll need in place for those areas where we do decide to drill.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

Written by Will Nuckols

March 24, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Oil Spill Commission Chairs Bill Reilly and Bob Graham interviewed by Ray Suarez at the Our Changing Oceans Conference

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National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) kicked off the 11th National Conference on Science, Policy and the Environment: Our Changing Oceans conference in Washington, DC with an interview of Oil Spill Commission Chairs Bill Reilly and Bob Graham being interviewed by PBS News Hour’s Ray Suarez.

An MP3 audio file of the interview can be downloaded at this link from the W.H. Nuckols Consulting website.

The Our Changing Oceans conference continues through January 21, 2011.

Commentary on additional sessions at this conference will appear on this blog as the week continues.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.  
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

Written by Will Nuckols

January 20, 2011 at 6:59 am

Oil Spill Commission emphasizes its independence at its first public hearing in New Orleans

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Bob Graham and Bill Reilly respond to questions during a press conference during the second day of the Oil Spill Commission in New Orleans

Bob Graham and Bill Reilly respond to questions during a press conference during the second day of the President's Oil Spill Commission in New Orleans, LA. Photo by Will Nuckols 2010.

 

Today at the lunchtime press conference during the first meeting of the President’s Oil Spill Commission, Chairs Bill Reilly and Senator Bob Graham fielded questions from a range of local and national media.     

Questioned yesterday on the first day of the meeting about the intention of the Commission and whether they will focus on moratorium for deepwater drilling, the Commission chairs stated that they believed the issue of the moratorium would be handled best by the Administration, and that the Commission would be primarily forward-looking.     

Reilly stated that large part of the contribution of the Commission will stem from its findings on the future of oil drilling in the U.S. –  not just in the Gulf of Mexico, but also in other sensitive areas.  Reilly highlighted Alaska as one of those areas of concern.     

But today the Commission may have changed its approach just one day into its work. Noting the significant concern expressed by so many people on the moratorium – both concerns expressed by witnesses at the hearings, as well as by people the commissioners met during their trips to gulf communities over the weekend – Reilly stated that he has changed his mind about how much emphasis should be paid to the moratorium.     

While no commission findings have yet been made (the co-Chairs again emphasized that their commission is only two days old), there were pointed questions by Bob Graham about a blanket approach to shut down all 33 rigs. Graham likened the oil drilling moratorium to recalls in the airline business. He said that he had read about a Boeing aircraft window safety concern, when 12,000 planes needed to be inspected. Graham said, “I am sure they didn’t wait until inspecting the 12,000th plane before putting the first plane back in service.” Graham further questioned DOI’s blanket approach when asking “why can’t [DOI] do a rig by rig evaluation?”     

While these statements may be seen as Administration criticisms, I suspect this is exactly the independence that the President wanted when he set up the Commission. If they are to act as a commission of independent experts, examination of Administration decisions must be a part of the analysis if the Commission’s final recommendations are to be of the highest value to the President.     

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com 


Is the Deepwater Horizon accident similar enough to all other deepwater drilling operations to stop drilling offshore? One federal judge has said no.

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page olf of Judge Maetin Feldman's June 22 2010 decision

The full 22 page decision by New Orleans District Court Judge Martin Feldman can be viewed at whnuckolsconsulting.com/pdf/jf.pdf

Today in District Court in New Orleans Judge Martin Feldman overturned the Obama Administration’s moratorium on deepwater drilling, saying that the Administration’s decision was arbitrarily imposed. Hornbeck Offshore Services, while filed the case in court, argued that the Administration has provided no proof that other drilling operations posed the same threat as occurred when the Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, resulting in the ongoing spill that has caught the attention of the public and the media in the U.S.

The 22-page written ruling issues by Judge Martin brings attention away from tar balls on beaches and focuses attention on the regulation and legal aspects of the aftermath of the disaster.

While Robert Gibbs has stated that the Obama Administration will immediately appeal to the Circuit Court, it is likely that the back and forth in the appeals process is likely to escalate beyond the 5th Circuit before the litigation comes to a final conclusion.

Judge Feldman noted that the Administration has failed to document irreparable harm that warrants suspension of operations, nor how long it would take to implement new recommendations regarding safety. While the 24/7 news cycle does make one wonder if it really was necessary for the Administration to carefully document in written form that a major oil spill of epic proportions can occur when drilling deep offshore wells, I suspect it was the open ended timeline of the moratorium that has moved the oil services industry to push back this hard.

On the surface, the Administration’s decision to put a stop to an entire section of an industry for what was beginning to look to some like an ever lengthening period of time, is not in the tradition of government’s reaction to safety issues. When a plane crashes, a common reaction is to pull all planes of that design, or ones that use a suspected particular part, out of service until the defect is better understood and fixed. The same applies with recalls in the auto industry – a particular model of car is taken off of the market. But the analogy in the car business would be to say that because a Toyota Prius pedal became stuck on the highway, all cars who can go highway speeds would be taken off of the streets irrespective of who made the car. If you start looking at the oil drilling moratorium in this way one would be lead to think that the reaction to stop offshore deepwater drilling is way out of line.

Page 19 of the findings today show Judge Feldman questioning “If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are? Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines?” He then concludes “That sort of thinking seems heavyhanded, and rather overbearing.”

 The judge cited the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and noted that the APA cautions that an agency action may only be set aside if it is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or not otherwise not in accordance with law.” 5 U.S.C. §706(2)(A). Accordingly Judge Feldman needed to find a “clear error of judgment” by the federal government to decide in favor of the oil services companies who brought their case before the court. What the Judge had to see in the federal government’s case was a “rational connection between the facts found and the choice made” to shut down deepwater drilling.

 Judge Feldman wrote “After reviewing the Secretary’s Report, the Moratorium Memorandum, and the Notice to Lessees, the Court is unable to divine or fathom a relationship between the findings and the immense scope of the moratorium.”

 Further in the findings, Judge Feldman identifies holes in the definition of “deepwater drilling” and the back and forth of whether it means 500 or 1000 feet – a topic that has also been questioned in the media for the past few weeks.

 The judgment concludes by issuing a preliminary injunction against the government because the “defendants have failed to cogently reflect the decision to issue a blanket, generic, indeed punitive, moratorium with the facts developed during the thirty-day review. The plaintiffs have established a likelihood of successfully showing that the Administration acted arbitrarily and capriciously in issuing the moratorium.”

 Today’s findings state that the federal mandate for a suspension of drilling over 500 feet “cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country.”

 There do appear to be multiple options for the federal regulators to control deepwater drilling from this point forward.  As Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has stated, the Administration will take the case up on appeal at the Circuit court level, and a second review of the Administration’s procedures that resulted in the moratorium might result in a decision in the government’s favor.

 But the Department of the Interior does not need to hang its hat solely on the battles between attorneys. Flaws, be they overstated or real, identified by Judge Feldman, give DOI a roadmap to craft a second decision that could also result in a suspension of overly dangerous drilling procedures until improvements in the risk/reward balance are improved.

 It is important to note that no investigation will result in a set of recommendations that make drilling at any depth risk free. What is desired is a better balance between risk and the capabilities to manage the risk, and that is something that everyone can get behind.

The full 22 page decision by New Orleans District Court Judge Martin Feldman can be viewed at www.whnuckolsconsulting.com/documents/judgefeldman22June10.pdf

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.

Written by Will Nuckols

June 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm