Fear and hysteria can create opportunities and help accomplish political goals for those cynical enough to take advantage of them. Sometimes it takes the level head of an experienced jurist to resist the hype and emotion and remind everyone that we are a nation of laws and that rule by fiat is not acceptable.
We can thank U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman for being the voice of reason in the current crisis in the Gulf of Mexico and stepping in to block an arbitrary six-month ban on oil drilling in the Gulf at depths over 500ft. In his ruling Feldman wrote that even the current crisis "cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country."
Lawyers from the Department of the Interior and the Justice Department argued for the ban, but Feldman found no justification for "the immense scope of the moratorium and the economic harm which it would pile on top of the damage already being done by the oil spill.
The Obama administration will appeal the ruling despite objections from governors and legislators from both parties and all over the gulf region. Louisiana Senator David Vitter made the most telling point when he argued that the ruling was an important reminder that "the president's powers are certainly not unlimited and that this moratorium is wreaking havoc on jobs in Louisiana."
Meanwhile, a Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) has introduced a bill granting a waiver to the Jones Act so that foreign companies can provide assistance in US territorial waters, and drilling continues on two relief wells designed to reduce oil flow at the Deepwater Horizon site so the well can be brought back under contrrol.