Aug 2, 2010 3:13 PM by Melissa Canone

Environmental Groups: Disqualify Judge Who Overturned Moratorium

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Several environmental groups have asked a
federal appeals court to disqualify a judge from a lawsuit over the
Obama administration's initial six-month moratorium on deep-water
oil drilling.
U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman overturned the temporary
drilling ban in June and refused last month to withdraw from the
In a court filing Thursday, environmental groups supporting the
moratorium asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to remove
Feldman from the case because of his investments in several oil and
gas companies. Feldman says he learned he owned Exxon Mobil stock a
day before he ruled and sold it several hours before he issued the
Last month, a 5th Circuit panel rejected the government's bid to
restore its six-month ban on issuing new permits for deep-water
drilling and suspension of 33 existing drilling projects in the
Gulf of Mexico.
The Interior Department later issued a new moratorium it hopes
would pass muster with the courts. Meanwhile, the government's
appeal of Feldman's decision is scheduled to be heard Sept. 1.
Feldman isn't the only federal judge in New Orleans whose
financial holdings have been scrutinized in the Gulf oil spill.
The 5th Circuit refused last month to order U.S. District Judge
Carl Barbier to recuse himself from dozens of lawsuits over the
deadly Deepwater Horizon rig explosion even though he owned
corporate bonds issued by two of the companies sued in the cases.
Barbier said his ownership of debt instruments issued by
Halliburton and Transocean didn't give him a financial interest in
the companies. The 5th Circuit refused to order Barbier to recuse
However, one of the companies being sued said the appeals court
ruling didn't resolve whether Barbier had a "financial interest in
the subject matter in controversy." On Friday, Cameron
International Corp. asked Barbier to disclose more information
about his holdings in Transocean and Halliburton.
Barbier is one of several judges who could be picked to preside
over a batch of more than 300 consolidated lawsuits filed against
BP PLC and other companies. The seven-member U.S. Judicial Panel on
Multidistrict Litigation is expected to announce this month where
the cases will be heard.


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