NEW ORLEANS -- The federal government says the deepwater petroleum drilling ban in the Gulf of Mexico is vital to avoid additional well blowouts and oil spills.
That contention, entered in the court record late Thursday, is at the heart of the Interior Department's answer to a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of the six-month moratorium. A group of offshore service companies filed the suit June 9.
U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman is scheduled Monday to hear a motion to nullify the moratorium at least temporarily.
The government contends the moratorium is needed to ensure future drilling safety. The Interior Department also disputes the claim that the ban will cause long-term economic harm to the Gulf Coast.