The federal government moved one step closer to allowing offshore drilling off the South Carolina coast last week.
The National Marine Fisheries Service on Friday authorized permits for five companies to potentially impact wildlife with seismic surveys in the mid-Atlantic Ocean. The technology uses sonic air blasts to search for potential oil or natural gas deposits at the bottom of the ocean.
Conservation groups oppose the permits, arguing the technology used impacts marine wildlife, although the industry maintains there is no evidence of population decline among marine mammals in other areas which already use the method.
The permits do not yet allow for the five companies to begin their surveys and do not say where in the mid-Atlantic they could occur. That will come when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approves the permits at a later date.
Most of South Carolina’s coastal elected officials and Gov. Henry McMaster say they oppose any drilling. However, some inland lawmakers hope it could bring jobs to neglected parts of the state.
The Obama administration initially considered allowing the surveys in the Atlantic, but reversed itself amid pressure from environmental groups in January 2017. However, President Trump signed an executive order several months later which had the Interior Department reconsider the survey applications. The Trump administration, which has focused on expanding American domestic energy options, is expected to ultimately grant the permits.