U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, who overturned the Obama administration's temporary ban on deep-water offshore oil drilling, has a lot of his net worth in oil industry holdings. Judge Feldman holds stock in Ocean Energy, Quicksilver Resources (KWK), Prospect Energy, Peabody Energy (BTU), Halliburton (HAL), Pengrowth Energy Trust (PGH), Atlas Energy Resources (ATN) and Parker Drilling (PKD).
Yes, that list did include Halliburton, which was a contractor for the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon project. The data uncovered by the Associated Press, is based on 2008 filings. The news agency also points out that other judges with similar holding have recused themselves from ruling on matters involving the oil and gas industries.
Several organizations have already expressed opinions that Judge Feldman did not act properly in the case.
"What does it say about our system that even the president of the United States can't pause Big Oil's dangerous deep-water drilling?" Larry Schweiger, president and chief executive of the National Wildlife Federation, asked in a statement that implied that Feldman's decision was not entirely independent from the influence of the oil industry.
Josh Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group said "If Judge Feldman has any investments in oil and gas operators in the Gulf, it represents a flagrant conflict of interest."
In his opinion, the judge said the government's actions were "arbitrary and capricious."
"The court is unable to divine or fathom a relationship between the findings and the immense scope of the moratorium," Judge Feldman wrote a day after hearing arguments in the case. Regardless of the strength or weakness of his legal argument, the decision has been tainted by his oil industry investments, at least as far as his critics are concerned.
The Obama White House says that it will appeal Feldman's ruling.
Judge Who Overturned Obama's Drilling Ban Has Substantial Oil Investments