Offshore Drilling Moratorium Expanded to NC
President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum on Sep. 25 that expanded an offshore drilling moratorium to the waters off the coast of North Carolina. The memorandum to the Department of Interior states, “this withdrawal prevents consideration of this area for any leasing for the purposes of exploration, development, or production during the 10-year period beginning on July 1, 2022 and ending on June 30, 2032.” Unfortunately, the memorandum only references the portion of the planning area that lies south of the northern administrative boundary line of North Carolina, and not the entire Mid-Atlantic Planning Area or the entire Atlantic Coast. Therefore, continued grassroots efforts to contact local, state, and federal representatives with the request to expand the moratorium for the entire Atlantic Coast are encouraged as the acute and chronic impacts of offshore drilling do not respect state lines. The federation will also continue to monitor the status of these moratoriums as President Trump stated that he, “can change things very easily,” immediately after announcing the decision to add North Carolina to the moratorium during a campaign rally.
Legal Challenge of Proposed Seismic Surveys Dismissed After IHAs Expire
The recently announced offshore drilling ban did not include a ban on proposed seismic surveys as the activity is authorized under different sections of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. However, the Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) that were issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service in November 2018 as a pre-qualification before BOEM can consider the permit applications are set to expire on November 30, 2020 and there are no statutory or regulatory mechanisms for extending the specific IHAs nor a basis for re-issuing or renewing them. Therefore, the legal challenge the federation was party along to with other leading environmental groups has been dismissed by the U.S. District Court. A welcome outcome as the intent of the lawsuit was to prevent the negative effects of continuous and cumulative airgun blasting from impacting our coastal environment and economy.
“The federation opposes seismic surveys because of the known negative effects continuous airgun blasts have on marine mammals, fish, and even zooplankton, the base of the marine food web. The cumulative impacts from seismic surveys pose a direct threat to valuable offshore industries such as commercial and recreational fishing that supports the livelihoods of thousands of individuals. Furthermore, seismic surveys are the precursor to offshore drilling, an activity that is not compatible with the coastal economy of our state that depends on the ecological integrity of more than 300 miles of coastline, more than 2 million acres of estuarine waters, and over 10,000 miles of estuarine shoreline.”Michael Flynn, Coastal Advocate, North Carolina Coastal Federation