Interior Dept. fights drilling moratorium ruling

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Federal lawyers are preparing to defend the Obama administration's moves to shut down offshore drilling in the wake of BP's oil 2010 oil spill before an appellate panel on Wednesday.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was scheduled to hear an appeal by the Interior Department challenging a contempt of court finding U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman issued in February 2011.

Feldman chided the department for its "dismissive conduct." In June 2010 Feldman overturned a decision to halt new permits for deepwater projects and suspend drilling after the Deepwater Horizon blast, which killed 11 workers and triggered the massive spill.

But after Feldman overturned the moratorium the Interior Department issued a second nearly identical suspension. Feldman then ordered the Obama administration to pay attorneys' fees for companies that sued.

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