It has been a tough week for the Obama Administration. Monday, a federal judge declared ObamaCare void since the individual mandate is unconstitutional; and Wednesday, another federal judge held Obama’s Interior Department in contempt of court.
Last June, U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman issued an order lifting the Interior Department’s ban on offshore drilling. This past Wednesday, he held the Interior Department in contempt of his prior ruling and directed the federal agency to pay attorneys’ fees to numerous offshore oil companies for its repeated “dismissive” behavior.
Read Judge Feldman’s full order here.
A little background:
Following the BP oil spill last April, President Obama directed the Interior Department, led by Ken Salazar, to issue a report and recommendation on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The report, which Judge Feldman notes was altered by White House officials, called for a blanket six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. In June, Judge Feldman rejected the moratorium saying it was “arbitrary and capricious and, therefore, unlawful.”
Unsatisfied, the Obama Administration appealed and then lost again. Still not willing to admit defeat, the Interior Department issued a second complete moratorium that, according to Judge Feldman, “disabled precisely the same rigs and deepwater drilling rigs as did the first one.” Still being litigated in court, the second moratorium ended last October. However, the Interior Department has yet to issue any drilling permits for the restricted activities.
Judge Feldman has had enough.
To borrow a witty phrase from famed legal blogger David Lat, Judge Feldman “bench slapped” the Interior Department, saying:
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.
This order will be referred to a magistrate judge who will determine how much money the oil companies’ lawyers should get.
Last June, when the Obama Administration announced it was appealing Judge Feldman’s initial ruling, I wrote:
For the sake of all the jobs the moratorium will destroy, let’s hope Obama and Salazar change their minds and just accept that they are wrong.
My hope in President Obama and his Administration was misplaced. Perhaps now that the Interior Department has been held in contempt, it will issue new drilling permits and allow folks to get back to work.
As before, I am not holding my breath.