Last month the Interior Department suspended drilling on 33 exploratory wells and stopped approval of all permits.  This wasn’t a permanent suspension, but rather a time to make sure that drilling was being done safely and safety regulations were tightened.    According to White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs, President Obama feels that until we understand why this happened continued drilling is “a danger that the president does not believe we can afford”.

Sounds fair to me.  You can’t prevent a disaster if you don’t know what caused it to happen in the first place.

Well several of the companies who ferry supplies to the rigs didn’t agree.  They sued claiming that the Interior Department had no proof that further drilling was a threat.

(Do I point out the obvious here and say that they can’t yet… until they know why it happened… hence the moratorium…)

On Tuesday the moratorium was overturned by U.S. District Court Judge Martin L.C. Feldman.    In his ruling Feldman asked the court, “If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are?  Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines? That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather overbearing.”

Ok, the courts have spoken, our legal system is fair and honest right?  We should respect the law and so on…

Not so fast.

Turns out Feldman may have had some serious interest in keeping those wells pumping oil.  According to a financial disclosure for 2008 on, Feldman owned stock in Transocean and Halliburton.

Feldman also reported having stake in a number of energy and energy related companies:

El Paso Pipeline Partners
El Paso Corp
BPZ Energy
Macquarie Infrastructure
EV Energy Partners
TXCO Resources
Atlas Energy Resources
Pengrowth Energy Trust
Peabody Energy
Prospect Energy
Provident Energy
Ocean Energy

Sounds like a conflict of interest to me.

But it turns out no one did their homework because a recusal was not requested.

And while Feldman refuses to comment on whether he still owns any stock in the energy industry, his silence reveals plenty.

What are your thoughts?  Does a ban make sense or do you think it was an arbitrary move?