BP Saga: Oil Ban Judge Investments Cause More Overreaction

Cynthia Dermody
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BP oil spill images

I'm as furious as anyone about the BP oil spill. The mass destruction of our precious natural resources is so upsetting to me that I have a hard time watching the live footage of crude oil that continues to pour into the Gulf in record amounts. But I still think U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman's decision to overturn the Obama Administration's six-month ban on all oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was sound and reasonable.

You don't shut down an entire airline when one craft crashes.You don't ban people from driving all cars when some models start jettisoning out of control. You don't recall all hamburgers because a few people die from E. coli.

The ban was a huge overreaction. Jobs are at stake. Livelihoods are at stake. The economy is at stake. Yes, it's all horrible, but let's not make the situation even more horrible by doing something rash. But now everyone is saying that Feldman acted out of a conflict of interest because he has investments in the gas and oil industry.

According to records, Feldman reported less than $15,000 in stock in Transocean Ltd., the company that owned the sunken Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, according to 2008 records.

As the story unfolds, it may turn out to be more than that, in which case I'll eat all these words, but for now I say ... so what if he does?

I probably do, too. I have a 401(k) and mutual funds. Lots of people do. I expect Obama does, as well, unless he handpicks every single company in his stock funds himself, which I kinda doubt because he's a little busy. True, he wasn't the one overturning the ban in favor of Big Oil. But if he has mutual funds, which are made up of sometimes hundreds of different companies, industries, and interests as is the nature of these funds, it's conceivable that at some point along the line, he has or will make a decision that appears as a "conflict of interest." Where do you draw the line?

Fifteen grand in the scheme of an investment portfolio of a federal judge who's nearing retirement age is not a lot. We're not talking millions here. We're not even talking hundreds of thousands. We're talking the price of a used SUV, three nice family vacations, or a small-scale kitchen renovation. And $15,000 is even less when you consider it as part of an investment portfolio that experiences gains and losses over time.

Even for someone like me, who's fairly young and has many more years to go in this investment game, $15K is a drop in the bucket. Losing it will not make or break my future.

Felman's ruling would allow oil drilling to continue until a trial is held. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement late Tuesday that within the next few days he would issue a new order imposing a moratorium that eliminates any doubt it is needed and appropriate.

Until more information in the latest investment controversy becomes available, I'm willing to give Feldman the benefit of the doubt and blame the Obama administration for yet another overreaction.

 

Image via Deepwater Horizon Repsonse/Flickr

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