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Gulf oil spill: New Orleans judge held energy-related stocks

June 22, 2010 |  2:16 pm

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U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman, who abruptly halted President Obama's deep-water drilling moratorium Tuesday, held stock in the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, according to his 2008 disclosure form, the latest available.

His holdings in Transocean Ltd., the world's largest owner of drilling rigs, were less than $15,000 in a wide-ranging portfolio that was heavy on energy companies but also included insurance, banking, food-processing and medical stocks.

Environmental groups were quick to circulate the judge's disclosure form in an effort to discredit the decision. “This deeply flawed injunction underscores the need for President Obama to nominate and for the Senate to confirm federal judges who apply the law in a fair way, not ones that are biased in favor of big corporations at ordinary Americans’ expense," said Eric Pica, President of Friends of the Earth.

"It also underscores the need for a congressionally imposed moratorium on drilling that won’t be tampered with by the judiciary.”

Feldman's 2009 disclosure statement is not yet online. Transocean, which owned the rig that exploded in the April gulf oil accident, is not a plaintiff in the case, which seeks to overturn the six-month moratorium imposed by the administration in order to reassess safety procedures for drilling in water deeper than 500 feet.

The moratorium has drawn criticism from local officials who say it will result in the loss of thousands of jobs in the hard-hit region.

Media reports have focused on the potential conflicts of interest of a host of Gulf Coast judges.  According to the Associated Press, 37 of the 64 active or senior judges in key Gulf Coast districts in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida have financial ties to energy industries, including oil and gas.

Feldman's financial statement showed holdings, some less than $1,000, in a host of energy companies, many of which could be affected by the moratorium. They included: Provident Energy ( a diversified energy enterprise with oil and gas assets), Atlas Energy Resources (a natural gas exploration and production company), Parker Drilling Co. (on-land and offshore drilling services, including rigs), TXCO Resources (oil and gas exploration and production); EV Energy Partners, (owner and operator of oil and gas properties), Rowan Companies Inc. (major provider of contract drilling services), NCP Capital Resources (lender to energy companies including Anadarko, a part owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig), BPZ Energy (oil and gas exploration and production company), El Paso Corp. (North America’s largest gas pipeline owner), KBR Inc.(oil industry engineering and construction), Chesapeake Energy Corp. (gas driller),
and ATP Oil and Gas Corp. (gas and oil developer in the Gulf of Mexico).

-- Margot Roosevelt

Photo: A deep-water drilling rig operates near the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. A federal judge struck down the Obama administration's six-month ban on deepwater drilling exploration in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, saying the government rashly concluded that because one rig failed, the others are in immediate danger, too. The White House promised an immediate appeal. Credit: AP Photo/Dave Martin

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