About that moratorium ruling…

ABOUT THAT MORATORIUM RULING…. President Obama recently imposed a rather popular moratorium on new deepwater oil drilling, but the move was blocked today by a federal judge in New Orleans.

Administration attorneys insisted the delay was necessary to ensure safety regulations, but District Court Judge Martin Feldman disagreed, concluding that “an invalid agency decision to suspend drilling of wells in depths of over 500 feet simply 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.” The ruling, not surprisingly, will be appealed immediately.

But before we look past today’s ruling, it’s worth noting that Feldman perhaps should have recused himself.

The federal judge who overturned Barack Obama’s offshore drilling moratorium appears to own stock in numerous companies involved in the offshore oil industry — including Transocean, which leased the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig to BP prior to its April 20 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico — according to 2008 financial disclosure reports. […]

According to Feldman’s 2008 financial disclosure form, posted online by Judicial Watch, the judge owned stock in Transocean, as well as five other companies that are either directly or indirectly involved in the offshore drilling business.

It’s not surprising that Feldman, who is a judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana, has invested in the offshore drilling business — an AP investigation found earlier this month that more than half the federal judges in the districts affected by the BP spill have financial ties to the oil and gas industry.

It hardly inspires confidence. Indeed, Ian Millhiser recently explained, “Industry ties among federal judges are so widespread that they are beginning to endanger the courts’ ability to conduct routine business. Last month, so many members of the right-wing Fifth Circuit were forced to recuse themselves from an appeal against various energy and chemical companies that there weren’t enough untainted judges left to allow the court to hear the case.”

Update: Looks like the estimable Kate Sheppard looked up Feldman’s financial disclosure records even quicker and had this story first.