Judge blocks Obama's offshore oil drilling moratorium

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal judge in New Orleans has blocked a six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling projects that was imposed in response to the massive Gulf oil spill.

Several companies that ferry people and supplies and provide other services to offshore drilling rigs had asked U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans to overturn the moratorium.

Feldman says in his ruling that the Interior Department failed to provide adequate reasoning for the moratorium. He says it seems to assume that because one rig failed, all companies and rigs doing deepwater drilling pose an imminent danger.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says President Barack Obama's administration will immediately appeal.

In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon failure, the Interior Department had stopped approval of any new permits for deepwater drilling. It also suspended the drilling of 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf.

Gibbs says President Obama believes strongly that drilling in water that deep does not make sense and puts the safety of workers in jeopardy. Gibbs added that President Obama believes that until investigations can determine why the spill happened, continued deepwater drilling potentially exposes workers and the environment to "a danger that the president does not believe we can afford."

Lawmakers are coming down on both sides of the judge's ruling against the Obama administration's moratorium.

Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana applauds the decision, saying it recognizes the president's powers aren't unlimited. Vitter also says the moratorium is "wreaking havoc on jobs" in his state.

Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey, who chairs a House energy independence committee, called the ruling "another bad decision in a disaster riddled with bad decisions by the oil industry."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)