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Drilling moratorium facing court challenge

Vessels work to recover thousands of barrels of crude oil from the Gulf of Mexico, thirty miles off the coast of Florida on June 18, 2010. UPI/BP
Vessels work to recover thousands of barrels of crude oil from the Gulf of Mexico, thirty miles off the coast of Florida on June 18, 2010. UPI/BP

BATON ROUGE, La., June 21 (UPI) -- A federal judge in New Orleans heard arguments Monday on a request that the six-month moratorium on deep-water oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico be lifted.

The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman said he would decide whether to issue a preliminary injunction sought by a drilling company and supported by the state of Louisiana by noon Wednesday.

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The federal government sought to delay any action until the end of July, two months into the moratorium.

In an amicus brief filed in support of a lawsuit by Hornbeck Offshore Services, the state says it supports the company's claim that its 13 oil rigs affected by the U.S. government's moratorium "previously satisfied the rigors" of the permit process, Courthouse News Service reported Monday.

In its brief, Louisiana argues states should be allowed to participate in the policy- and decision-making process concerning the exploration and development of offshore resources, Gov. Bobby Jindal's office said in a statement.

In the state's brief, Louisiana Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell called the moratorium "overly broad and … not properly tailored to its stated goal."

The White House announced the moratorium May 27 based on a report by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on new drilling safety recommendations.

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Hornbeck and Louisiana say the moratorium will cost the state thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in lost wages, battering Louisiana's already fragile economy.

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