UPDATE: A federal judge in South Carolina has rejected the Trump administration's attempt to continue preparatory work for offshore drilling during the #TrumpShutdown, issuing a ruling in a federal lawsuit challenging the overall expansion plans.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel's ruling prohibits federal agencies "from taking action to promulgate permits, otherwise approve, or take any other official action" for permits to conduct testing that's needed before drilling work can commence.
The action blocks the Interior Department's plan to move ahead with its widely opposed five-year offshore leasing plan, expected to be released in the coming weeks.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, under the direction of acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, had issued a revised contingency plan ordering as many as 40 Interior Department personnel to continue work on the Trump Administration’s offshore leasing plan during what is now the longest government shutdown in American history.
The agency deemed the move necessary to “comply with the Trump administration’s “America First” energy strategy.”
Earlier this month, South Carolina joined a federal lawsuit opposing the administration's plans to conduct offshore drilling tests using seismic air guns. Gergel is overseeing that case, initially filed by environmental groups and municipalities along the state's coast.
The suit challenges permits for the testing that precedes the drilling itself. It claims the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in issuing the permits.
The following is a joint statement by Earthjustice, League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council:
“As the American people experience the painful effects of the Trump Shutdown, the administration is busy serving the oil and gas industry. Instead of working with Congress to end the longest government furlough in American history, the Trump Administration is prioritizing a radical, unpopular plan to subject America’s coasts to more offshore drilling. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is asking dozens of employees to return to work at the behest of oil and gas industry lobbyists.
“Ignoring public health, scientific consensus and bipartisan opposition has been a trademark of the Trump Administration.
“Shocking the conscience is everyday fare for the Trump Administration. But it is a new level of “dirty” to pursue reckless and dangerous offshore drilling while thousands of federal employees go without pay, national parks are vandalized and shuttered, forest fire prevention funds are being diverted, and the nation’s food supply goes without proper inspection.”
The Trump Administration’s plan ignores widespread, bipartisan public opposition to offshore leasing, radically expanding drilling in new areas of the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Arctic waters, and attempts to auction off permanently protected areas.
Americans have rejected the Trump Administration’s move to expand dirty and dangerous offshore drilling and energy exploration. That opposition includes tens of thousands of local businesses and hundreds of thousands of commercial fishing families that depend on clean coasts, the majority of Americans, nearly every coastal Governor, over 315 coastal municipalities, many Alaska Natives, bi-partisan lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels, and a host of faith and conservation leaders.