Company seeking to conduct offshore seismic testing for oil and gas withdraws application

A ship trails an array of seismic air guns. [photo courtesy Ocean Conservation Research]

In a surprise move, the company that was seeking to conduct a seismic survey off the coast of North Carolina and other states for potential oil and natural gas appears to have decided to call it quits.

WesternGeco, LLC. sent a letter to federal officials on September 4, withdrawing their application submitted in 2014.

“The application requested authorization to conduct a geophysical survey on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf,” said Adil Mukhitov, vice president with WesternGeco in a one paragraph letter to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

“BOEM has not yet granted or denied the application. Please consider the application withdrawn,” Mukhitov said.

This comes two weeks after Governor Roy Cooper announced the state would appeal the decision in June by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to override North Carolina’s objection to WesternGeco’s plan for offshore seismic testing.

Opponents to offshore testing and drilling expressed cautious optimism.

“This move is certainly gratifying, and adds to the feeling that the wheels may be coming off the grand Atlantic drilling plan – which just means we opponents need to redouble our efforts,” said Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon. “It’s not over until it’s over!”

“(The Dare County Board of Commissioners have opposed drilling and seismic testing off our coast for many years and have publicly stated so with a number of resolutions,” said board Chairman Bob Woodard.

“This is welcomed news that WesternGeco, LLC has withdrawn their application to conduct geophysical surveys on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf,” Woodard said. “We are hopeful that all of the efforts from many who oppose drilling off our coast are beginning to see positive results from their hard work.”

““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. “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.”

The news of the company’s withdrawal comes days after the Trump administration’s assertion that Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina will be protected from offshore drilling, and the acknowledgement that drilling could harm states’ economies and the environment.

Despite the science that shows little or no resources worth drilling for in North Carolina waters, the same protections have not been extended to North Carolina. Governor Cooper has asked the Trump Administration and Congress repeatedly to exempt North Carolina from any offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling.

“North Carolina is a national leader in its pursuit of clean energy solutions and gambling with our coastal economy and natural resources to pursue fossil fuel extraction would take the state backwards,” said Secretary Michael S. Regan of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. “DEQ stands firmly with the coastal communities in the determination that seismic testing followed by offshore drilling is not consistent with our responsibility to protect our coastal resources and economy.”

Forty-five communities in the state have adopted formal resolutions opposing the expansion of drilling.

This is a developing story, stay with OBX Today for updates.

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