U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman said today that he will not delay his Tuesday decision to strike down a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. The Justice Department had asked the New Orleans federal judge to stay his ruling while it appeals to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Feldman rejected that request today. Two days ago, he struck down the Interior Department's decision to suspend drilling on 33 exploratory wells and halt approval of new permits for drilling projects in water depths of 500 feet or more.
In court papers, the Justice Department indicated that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has instructed all employees not to enforce the moratorium. It also says the department will contact operators who received notices of suspension to let them know the notices have no legal effect at this time.
Meanwhile, Salazar confirmed that he will impose a new, refined moratorium. The new drilling order, which is still under development, could include provisions to allow drilling in areas where reserves and risks are known, the AP reports.