Trump administration sidelines plan to expand offshore drilling

Local News

The Trump administration is reevaluating its controversial plan to sharply expand offshore drilling as it responds to a court ruling that blocked drilling off Alaska.

President Donald Trump has pushed to open nearly all U.S. coastlines to offshore oil and gas drilling. But a federal judge last month ruled against Trump’s executive order to open the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic. Coastal states also have opposed the expanded drilling.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that the legal challenges may be “discombobulating” to the administration’s overall drilling plans. Bernhardt says the administration may have to wait for the challenges to fully play out in court.

Interior spokeswoman Molly Block says the agency “is evaluating all of its options.”

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster calls it “winning.”

“South Carolinians can remain confident that we will continue our efforts to protect our pristine coastline and invaluable tourism industry from the destructive threats of seismic testing and offshore drilling,” he added in a statement.

Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a lawsuit against the federal government to halt the drilling and the seismic testing preceding it, arguing the seismic blasts would harm wildlife and the state’s fishing and tourism industries.

AG Wilson reacted Thursday to the news, saying “While our lawsuit is far from over, we’re optimistic that this step by the federal government is a good sign that we will ultimately be successful at protecting our coast,”  He went on to say “Our lawsuit is the only one that relied on the Alaska precedent and made the same arguments as the Alaska court just concluded. We think this is great news for our coast and our case, but we’re not just concerned about the leasing of federal land; we think it’s critical that seismic testing off the coast of South Carolina is also off the table, consistent with the rule of law.​”

Lowcountry Congressman Joe Cunningham welcomed the news but said the fight is far from over. He wants legislation to permanently ban offshore oil and gas drilling.

“This decision is the result of constant pressure from coastal communities, environmental groups, and elected officials who made it abundantly clear that offshore oil and gas drilling is dangerous, unwanted, and a threat to our economy and way of life. I’m glad to see the Administration listened. However, this fight is far from over. We need legislation to permanently ban offshore oil and gas drilling and make sure that no Administration can put our communities at risk. Congress must pass my bipartisan legislation, HR 1941: The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, as soon as possible.”

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