Environment, Trump Administration

Federal judges puts the kibosh on seismic testing permits during government shutdown

Last February, BOEM held a public comment session in Raleigh about its plan to allow seismic testing and offshore drilling off the NC coast. Hundreds of people protested against the proposal beforehand. (File photo: Lisa Sorg)

The Trump administration is prohibited from issuing permits for seismic testing in the ocean during the government shutdown, a federal court ruled Tuesday.

Energy exploration companies conduct seismic testing to try to discover potential spots that contain oil or natural gas below the ocean floor. Science has shown that seismic testing, which produces extremely loud, persistent blasts of sound beneath the sea, can harm and even kill marine life, from whales down the food chain to plankton. Five exploration companies have asked for permits to begin the testing.

The Hill reported the story yesterday afternoon.

In addition to environmental groups, Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration has opposed energy exploration and seismic testing off the North Carolina coast, citing potential environmental damage and economic threats to tourism because of accidents or spills. Likewise, nearly every coastal government in North Carolina has publicly stated its opposition.

From The Hill:

Justice Department attorneys representing the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) had asked [Judge] Gergel to pause the case during the shutdown because they could not write filings. Gergel granted that pause, but said that the same logic means BOEM should be prohibited from granting any permits until the government reopens.
He noted that last week Interior asked furloughed employees to return to work in order to process the seismic testing applications. …

The story goes on:

Federal attorneys had told the judge previously that the BOEM would not issue testing permits during the shutdown. But the agency later updated its shutdown plan to bring in employees to work on the permits, and attorneys told the court that the permits might be issued as early as March 1.

 

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