CHARLESTON, S.C. – A federal judge here ruled Friday that work to issue permits for offshore seismic exploration for oil and natural gas cannot continue until the partial federal government shutdown ends.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, in his ruling on the motion filed by conservation, municipal and business interests, also blocked all federal agencies, including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, from working on the permits until after he rules on a motion by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson aimed at blocking planned seismic testing and offshore drilling. The attorney general filed the motion earlier this month to join the lawsuit against the federal government filed by 16 South Carolina cities and towns and the state Small Business Chamber of Commerce.
The Trump administration had called employees at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management back to work to continue to process permit applications from five seismic testing companies proposing to survey off the East Coast.
The ruling prevents federal agencies, “from taking action to promulgate permits, otherwise approve, or take any other official action regarding the pending permit applications for oil and gas surveys in the Atlantic … This injunction shall remain in effect until funds have been appropriated for the Department of Justice and all Federal Defendants, the Court has received the Federal Defendants’ responses to the pending motions to intervene, and the Court has ruled on those motions.”
“The Judge is not going to let federal agencies do an end run around the legal process by quietly working on and approving the seismic permits and then claiming that it can’t respond to an injunction request because of the government shutdown,” S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Frank Knapp wrote on his blog hosted by the chamber’s website.