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Seismic Permit Challenge Dismissed as Moot

A federal judge has dismissed as moot a case challenging federal permits that would allow seismic testing off the East Coast.

Judge Richard Gergel with the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Charleston Division, ruled Tuesday that the case brought by environmental advocates, including the North Carolina Coastal Federation, challenging permits authorizing five companies to harm or harass marine mammals while conducting seismic surveys in Atlantic waters was moot because the permits expire in November and cannot be extended.

The plaintiffs had argued that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued Incidental Harassment Authorizations, or IHAs, in November 2018.

The authorizations expire Nov. 30. Lawyers representing the seismic industry said earlier this month during a hearing related to the case that it wasn’t feasible to begin testing before the permits expire.

Sixteen South Carolina coastal communities and the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce filed the lawsuit in December seeking to prevent seismic testing. The Coastal Federation, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, One Hundred Miles, Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation joined to file a separate lawsuit. The cases were later merged and 10 attorneys general from East Coast states, including Josh Stein of North Carolina, intervened in the combined lawsuits.

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The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.