Louisiana Judge Deep Into Offshore Oil

Louisiana Judge Deep Into Offshore Oil

Federal Judge Martin L.C. Feldman blocked President Obama’s six month moratorium on deep-water oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Judge Feldman knows lots about offshore drilling: he invests in it.

According to his last financial disclosure form, Reagan appointee Martin Feldman owns shares in Deepwater owner/operator Transocean and drilling service providers Parker Drilling and Rowan Companies, Inc. as well as offshore developer ATP Oil & Gas Corporation. During the report period, Judge Feldman cashed in his shares in Deepwater Horizon contractor Halliburton and Hercules Offshore.

“If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are?” wrote Judge Feldman. Obviously, the judge has not invested in Cameron International Corp., the company that manufactured the Blowout Prevention Valves on the Deepwater Horizon.

“Several other judges in Louisiana have recused themselves from oil-related cases,” according to the Wall Street Journal’s Dionne Searcey. Why not Judge Feldman? Narrowly conceived, he needn’t, as none of the companies in his portfolio is an actual party to the case; they just may benefit from his ruling.

It might be said that other investments in Judge Feldman’s energy-heavy portfolio (which includes EV Energy Partners, Peabody Coal, Provident Energy, BPZ Energy, Atlas Energy, Quicksilver Resources) compete with his offshore oil investments and balance out his vested interest in deep-water drilling. Transportation and processing assets and diversified investment by all energy companies blur this distinction, though.

How many offshore oil wells are operating in the Gulf of Mexico? 3,500 drilling rigs and platforms, 79 of them deep-water wells at depths more than 500 feet underwater. How many exploratory wells would be affected by the temporary deepwater drilling ban? 33. That hardly sounds like the “overbearing” blanket ban of “immense scope” described by Judge Feldman. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will issue a new deep-water drilling moratorium order which presumably will make this clear.


Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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