|A federal judge in South Carolina has turned back the Trump administration's attempt to continue preparatory work for offshore drilling during the federal government's partial shutdown, issuing a ruling in a federal lawsuit challenging the overall expansion plans.
In his order, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel halted 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 begin.
The ruling comes a few days after President Donald Trump's decision this week to recall workers at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management so they could continue to process testing permits for possible drilling off the Atlantic coastline. The recall drew an objection from the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva (gri-HAWL-vah) of Arizona. He called on Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to reverse course or provide a briefing on the legal justification for the move.
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.