Salazar signals challenge in offshore drilling permits case

However, Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes told the panel that the agency will also comply with the decision by Feldman, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

“We will comply with the court order and make a decision up or down on the pending permits that were identified in the court order within the time frame required,” he said.

The agency is mulling drilling permit applications from several companies.

Interior earlier this week approved its first deepwater drilling permit since the BP spill, for Houston-based Noble Energy to resume a project that was halted after the disaster. The permit approved Monday was not among the five covered by Feldman's ruling, an Interior Department spokeswoman said.

The agency is requiring oil companies to comply with a host of beefed-up safety standards and show that they can quickly contain blown-out deepwater wells.

UPDATE: In remarks to reporters after the hearing, Salazar had this to say about a possible appeal of the court order:

“We are examining our options in terms of an appeal but we also will comply with the judge's order if that is what we have to do," he said.

—This post was updated at 11:19 a.m., 11:25 a.m. and 12:25 p.m.