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Gulf Oil Spill; Drilling Moratorium Decision (Hornbeck v. Salazar CA 10-1663)

Gulf Oil Spill; Drilling Moratorium Decision (Hornbeck v. Salazar CA 10-1663)

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Published by Legal Insurrection
Decision granting preliminary injunction preventing implementation of Obama oil drilling moratorium
Decision granting preliminary injunction preventing implementation of Obama oil drilling moratorium

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Published by: Legal Insurrection on Jun 22, 2010
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07/29/2010

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Hornbeck Offshore Services owns and operates a fleet ofJones-Act compliant vessels that support deepwater and ultradeepwater exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. The Bollinger Entitiesown and operate shipyards for the construction and repair ofvessels with a significant part of their business (50% in 2009)involving vessels used to support deepwater exploration andproduction in the Gulf. The Bee Mar Deepwater Vessel Companies ownand operate vessels that support Gulf of Mexico deepwaterexploration and production activities. The Chouest Shore SideCompanies perform various support services necessary for Gulfdeepwater exploration and production. The Chouest Vessel Companiesown and operate vessels that support deepwater exploration andproduction in the Gulf. The Chouest Shipyard Companies constructvessels intended for Gulf of Mexico deepwater operations. Over10,000 employees in a variety of trades are employed.1UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTEASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANAHORNBECK OFFSHORE SERVICES,CIVIL ACTIONL.L.C ET AL.VERSUSNO. 10-1663KENNETH LEE KENSALAZARSECTION FET AL.ORDER AND REASONSThis case asks whether the federal government’s imposition ofa general moratorium on deepwater drilling for oil in the Gulf ofMexico was imposed contrary to law. Before the Court is theplaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction. For the followingreasons, the motion is GRANTED.
Background
The plaintiffs in this case provide a myriad of services tosupport offshore oil and gas drilling, exploration, and productionactivities in the Gulf of Mexico’s Outer Continental Shelf.
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They
Case 2:10-cv-01663-MLCF-JCW Document 67 Filed 06/22/10 Page 1 of 22
 
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The all-too-familiar tragic facts include the senselessdeaths of eleven crew members, the horrible losses of theirfamilies and loved ones, many injured workers, a broken pipe on thesea floor that continues to spew endless gushes of crude oil intothe Gulf, and oil muck that has spread across thousands of squaremiles and persists in damaging sensitive coastlines, wildlife, andthe intertwined local economies. As a result, nearly one-third ofthe Gulf of Mexico has been closed to commercial and recreationalfishing.2challenge the six-month moratorium on offshore drilling operationsof new and currently permitted deepwater wells that was imposed onMay 28, 2010 by the Department of the Interior and the MineralsManagement Service.The government edict was in reaction to the Deepwater Horizondrilling platform explosion on April 20, 2010, and the resultingdevastation. In response to this unprecedented disaster,
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thePresident of the United States formed a bipartisan commission–theNational Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill andOffshore Drilling–and tasked it with investigating the facts andcircumstances concerning the cause of the blowout. The Presidentalso ordered the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a thoroughreview of the Deepwater Horizon blowout and to report, withinthirty days, “what, if any, additional precautions and technologiesshould be required to improve the safety of oil and gas explorationand production operations on the outer continental shelf.”A thirty-day examination was conducted in consultation withrespected experts from state and federal governments, academicinstitutions, and industry and advocacy organizations. On May 27,
Case 2:10-cv-01663-MLCF-JCW Document 67 Filed 06/22/10 Page 2 of 22
 
32010 the Secretary issued a Report, which reviews all aspects ofdrilling operations and recommends immediate and long term reformsto improve drilling safety. In the Executive Summary to the Report,the Secretary recommends “a six-month moratorium on permits for newwells being drilled using floating rigs.” He also recommends “animmediate halt to drilling operations on the 33 permitted wells,not including relief wells currently being drilled by BP, that arecurrently 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 thisreport have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by theNational Academy of Engineering.” As the plaintiffs, and theexperts themselves, pointedly observe, this statement wasmisleading. The experts charge it was a “misrepresentation.” It wasfactually incorrect. Although the experts agreed with the safetyrecommendations contained in the body of the main Report, five ofthe National Academy experts and three of the other experts havepublicly stated that they “do not agree with the six month blanketmoratorium” on floating drilling. They envisioned a more limitedkind of moratorium, but a blanket moratorium was added after theirfinal review, they complain, and was never agreed to by them. Afactor that might cause some apprehension about the probity of theprocess that led to the Report.The draft reviewed by the experts, for example, recommended a
Case 2:10-cv-01663-MLCF-JCW Document 67 Filed 06/22/10 Page 3 of 22

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