Science, facts and a deepwater dilemma

A federal judge’s decision Tuesday to block the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling that President Barack Obama imposed last month highlights the difficulty for a president who promised “to be sure that facts are driving scientific decisions.”

Louisiana-based Judge Martin Feldman said the Interior Department failed to show the oil spill caused by BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig blowout in April indicated an imminent danger linked to all deepwater drilling. Meanwhile, the harm to the industry and region was clear, the judge said.

Feldman also said the president’s decision to issue the moratorium “does not seem to be fact-specific and refuses to take into measure the safety records of those others in the Gulf.”

A temporary halt to deepwater drilling isn’t an outlandish response to the worst man-made environmental disaster in the nation’s history. However, when it is clear that engineering experts asked by the Obama team to assess the dangers of deepwater drilling oppose such a moratorium, there is reason to question the administration’s actions. And, when the president appoints seven people to a new commission on offshore drilling, six of whom have no scientific experience, but lots of political history opposing offshore drilling, it raises more questions.

The White House vowed Tuesday to appeal Judge Feldman’s decision and the injunction may be overturned. But, in doing so, the administration needs to show that it is weighing the risks of deepwater drilling against the potential damage to the Gulf Coast economy and U.S. energy needs — using facts, not simply emotion to justify its actions.


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