OFFSHORE DRILLING: S.C. asks court to block Trump admin’s Atlantic plan

E&E News
March 1, 2019

By Jeremy P. Jacobs

South Carolina today asked a federal court to immediately block the Trump administration’s plan to spur oil and gas exploration off the Eastern Seaboard.

The state filed a motion seeking an immediate injunction in its case challenging the administration’s offshore plan, arguing that permits for seismic airgun testing could be issued as soon as today.

Such testing, the state said, “would be contrary to applicable law and would have a disastrous impact on marine life and therefore, the economy of South Carolina and the recreational and commercial interests of its citizens.”

The consolidated case in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina was filed by South Carolina, nine other coastal states, numerous cities and environmental groups (E&E News PM, Dec. 20, 2018).

It challenges President Trump’s 2017 executive order to open up the East Coast to offshore oil and gas development and subsequent moves by the Interior Department to implement the plan.

The orders, South Carolina said today, are “nothing short of unprecedented.” The state noted that since 1982, the South Atlantic region and entire area of the continental shelf off the South Carolina’s coast have been deemed “off limits” to oil and gas activity.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is expected to release its five-year offshore plan soon, and the agency has indicated that permits to begin seismic testing could be handed out as early as today.

“The economic damage from seismic surveying for offshore oil starts on the first air gun blast,” Frank Knapp Jr., president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

“The destruction from that first blast and all the subsequent blasts can never be undone. That’s why it is imperative that seismic surveys not start while the legal process is ongoing.”

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