The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Friday asked the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] to stay a district court ruling to lift a six-month moratorium on deep water drilling [JURIST reports] issued by the Obama administration in response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The district judge issued a preliminary injunction against the moratorium [opinion, PDF] last week saying it was necessary because the ban caused irreparable harm to both the plaintiffs, small oil companies affected by the ban, and the public. In its filing, the DOJ contends that the district judge abused his discretion [Reuters report] in issuing the injunction and that another deepwater spill could overwhelm the ongoing efforts to clean up the spill with catastrophic results. Lawyers for the DOJ argue that the moratorium was put in place so the government could engage in concerted effort [Business Week report] to protect the economic, social and ecological health of the region. US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar [official website] confirmed last week [JURIST report] that the DOJ would appeal the injunction, stating that the ban on deepwater drilling was the "right decision" and is necessary to protect the communities and environment of the Gulf coast. Salazar has also indicated that he will implement a new injunction against deep water drilling that complies with the district court's ruling.
Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama [official website] announced the government's latest plan of action for tackling the oil spill, which includes a $20 billion compensation fund [JURIST reports] subsidized by BP. The newly-established escrow fund [government backgrounder] will be used to indemnify the workers and business owners harmed as a result of the oil spill. The announcement also included a long-term restoration plan and prevention of future disasters [JURIST report] through stronger regulation. Additionally, Obama announced the appointment of Micheal Bromwich [press release], a former federal prosecutor and Inspector General for the Justice Department, as head of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) [official website], which has been plagued with corruption and notorious for its cozy relationship with oil companies. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a result of an oil well blowout that caused an explosion 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf. More than 120 million gallons of oil have leaked already from the rig's broken pipe and has now surpassed the Exxon Valdez [JURIST news archive] as the worst oil spill in US history. The White House is keeping a daily chronology of events [text].