This afternoon, we have another illustration that when the pull of profits goes up against protecting public safety, the personal leanings of our federal judges really do matter. The Associated Press reports:
A federal judge struck down the Obama administration’s six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, saying the government rashly concluded that because one rig failed, the others are in immediate danger, too.
The White House promised an immediate appeal. The Interior Department had halted approval of any new permits for deepwater drilling and suspended drilling of 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said President Barack Obama believes strongly that drilling at such depths does not make sense and puts the safety of workers “at a danger that the president does not believe we can afford.”
Judge Martin Feldman, a Reagan appointee, said, “What seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of irreparable harm.”
To be clear, in reaction to the worst oil spill ever in US waters—one that was caused by reckless decisions made by a company that had to answer to very little government regulation—the president is halting similar drilling projects until investigators can ensure that they are safe. That doesn’t exactly seem overly rash.
Yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said that he’d be sure that Elena Kagan is asked a lot about the role of the courts in cases involving the accountability of oil companies in her upcoming Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Today’s decision is a reminder of why that’s so important.