(Bloomberg News) The U.S. judge overseeing legal challenges to the Obama Administration's deep-water drilling ban ordered government regulators, environmentalists, politicians and oil industry groups opposed to the moratorium to a conference in New Orleans federal court on Nov. 9.
"The court would like to know what issues remain to be resolved in each case,'' U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman said in an order issued today.
It's the first time Feldman has asked parties involved in all four lawsuits related to the administrative policy restricting drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet to assemble together in his court. The order includes environmentalists who sued in Washington federal court this month to force Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar to restore the ban he rescinded.
The Obama Administration first restricted deep-water drilling in May, after the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig caused the BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Feldman threw out that first ban in June, calling it overly broad, and Salazar instituted a second, similar ban in July. Salazar withdrew the latter ban this month after determining the industry has made progress on improving offshore drilling safety and oil-spill response capabilities.
The cases are Hornbeck Offshore Services LLC. v, Salazar, 2:10-cv-1663; Ensco Offshore Co. v. Salazar, 2:10-cv-1941; State of Texas v. Salazar, 2:10-cv-2949, all U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans), and Center for Biological Diversity v. Salazar, 1:10-cv-1787, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington, DC).