An oil and gas exploration company has withdrawn its application for a permit to conduct seismic testing off the North Carolina coast.
Houston-based WesternGeco's request came in a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management last week. The bureau had not yet ruled on the application, so other companies could still apply.
The move comes two weeks after North Carolina filed a lawsuit challenging the government's decision to allow testing. Attorney General Josh Stein says he will continue to pursue that suit.
Last year, the state formally objected to a WesternGeco's plan to begin testing. Under federal law, that objection effectively barred any permits from being issued. But in June, federal officials overrode the state's objection and gave the go-ahead for testing by the company, WesternGeco. So the state has appealed that decision at U.S. District Court in Raleigh.
Seismic testing blasts sound waves at the ocean floor to help map potential oil and gas deposits. The testing can last for months, and sound waves can be heard up to 2,500 miles away. State officials and environmental groups worry that could harm sea life and the environment.
Two years ago, President Donald Trump announced a push to expand offshore oil and gas drilling. Many states along the Atlantic Coast objected, including North Carolina.
On Tuesday, the president announced that he was exempting Florida, Georgia and South Carolina from those plans. But North Carolina, Virginia and other East Coast states could still see offshore drilling.
In a statement Friday, Stein said he is urging "the Trump Administration to stop its headlong rush to put oil rigs off North Carolina's beautiful shores."
"The president wrongly and without basis leaves North Carolina exposed to offshore drilling while protecting Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia," he said. "North Carolina’s natural resources aren’t just beautiful – they’re also an economic engine for our state. And North Carolinians have made their views crystal clear: we do not want drilling off our coast any more than Floridians, Georgians, or South Carolinians do. I will continue this fight to protect our natural resources.”
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