Judge refuses delay on Gulf drilling ban

THE OBAMA administration was dealt a fresh blow yesterday after a US judge who overturned a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling refused to put his ruling on hold while the government appeals.

US district judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans rejected the request to stay his decision from earlier in the week. Interior secretary Ken Salazar, along with President Barack Obama, implemented the six-month moratorium in response to the devastating Gulf of Mexico oil leak, which started when a well owned by BP ruptured.

Feldman criticised the Obama administration, calling the decision to place a ban on drilling “punitive”.
The Obama administration can still appeal Feldman’s original decision.

As the courts and the government continued to battle, BP’s efforts to plug the well were further delayed after a robot knocked the containment cap off of the damaged blow out preventer, causing oil to spill largely unchecked into the Gulf before it was fixed.

The scale of litigation facing BP if it is charged with gross negligence also emerged yesterday. Under the Clean Water Act, BP could be fined $4,300 (£2,880) per barrel of oil that has leaked into the Gulf. Based on assumptions of up to 60,000 barrels each day, BP could face more than $140m in fines per day.

BP’s shares, which have lost almost 50 per cent since the explosion, shed a further 2.5 per cent yesterday to 325.5p.