Rebuffed twice by the courts, the Obama administration is taking another crack at a moratorium on deep-water drilling, stressing new evidence of safety concerns and no longer basing the moratorium on water depth. But those who challenge the latest ban question whether it complies with a judge's ruling tossing out the first one.
The new order does not appear to deviate much from the original moratorium, as it still targets deep-water drilling operators but defines them in a different way.
Last week, a federal appeals court rejected the government's effort to restore its initial offshore deep-water drilling moratorium, which was issued following the catastrophic Gulf oil spill in April. The moratorium was first blocked last month by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman.
The Justice Department said Monday it will file a motion with the U.S. District Court seeking a dismissal of that case, because the old moratorium is no longer operative, making the challenge moot. The department also will ask the appeals court to set aside Feldman's order of last month.
Carl Rosenblum, a lawyer for the plaintiffs who sued to block the moratorium, said they are reviewing the new moratorium and "we have substantial concerns about its consistency with Judge Feldman's order." He wouldn't elaborate or say if they planned to challenge it in court.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he decided to put in place a new moratorium because of "evidence that grows every day of the industry's inability in the deep water to contain a catastrophic blowout, respond to an oil spill and to operate safely."