Stein to continue lawsuit after company backs away from seismic testing citing other possible attempts

The issue of offshore drilling has been one of high contention for coastal North Carolina for the last several years.
Updated: Sep. 14, 2020 at 5:35 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is continuing his legal action against the federal government regarding seismic testing for offshore drilling, though the most developed effort to pursue the practice has been pulled.

WesternGeco, the company that had applied for a permit to conduct seismic testing off the coast but was denied only to be resurrected by the Trump administration, reportedly pulled itself from consideration for said permit.

Governor Roy Cooper’s office issued a statement on the “victory” Friday, Sept. 11.

“While this is great news for the protection of our environment and economy in Eastern North Carolina, we have more to do to protect our coast,” Cooper said in a release. “I stand with local leaders, families and businesses up and down our coast in continuing to fight the expansion of dirty and dangerous offshore oil and gas development. This fight is far from over, and our stance is clear—not off our coast, not today and not tomorrow.”

Stein said he was glad to see the development as well, but that it won’t change his decision to pursue legal action against the federal government for overruling the state’s decision on the permit.

“I’m pleased to report that the company that was granted the permit has decided to say, ‘Nope, we’re not going to proceed,’ but we have to continue our litigation, because there are other companies that have also requested permits, and we want to make sure that those are not granted either,” Stein said in an interview Monday.

Stein said there are four other companies considering pursuing seismic testing, and he wants the lawsuit to continue in the hopes a judge will agree North Carolina has the authority to deny permits.

The developments come after the Trump administration “banned” offshore drilling in Georgia and South Carolina, joining the state of Florida, reasoning that the states rely on coastal tourism that could be harmed by the practice.

That ban did not include North Carolina, which Stein said was frustrating and to him only further emphasizes the need to continue pursuing the lawsuit.

“Obviously, we in North Carolina, we get billions of dollars of economic activity in eastern North Carolina because of fishing and tourism,” he said, “and so what’s good for South Carolinians, Georgians and Floridians is equally good for the people of North Carolina. That’s why I will continue to contest that effort by the federal government.”

Stein said the lawsuit is moving in the direction of discovery.

The issue of offshore drilling has been one of high contention for coastal North Carolina for the last several years.

Proponents, including some prominent politicians, argue the practice would open up economic development opportunities.

But local governments, including Wilmington, Carolina Beach and others in the Cape Fear region, have argued that the risk of a spill and the environmental toll of seismic testing for the industry are not worth it.

“When you when you think about North Carolina’s coast, I mean, it’s just such a beautiful, incredible asset that we’re blessed to have,” Stein said. “I will not allow the federal government to put oil rigs off the coast that runs the risk of having some Gulf of Mexico oil spill, it can cause billions of dollars in economic damage. It’s just not acceptable.”

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