Federal Judge allows South Carolina’s lawsuit to block offshore drilling to move forward

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – Feb. 18, 2020 – A federal judge has ruled that South Carolina’s lawsuit to block offshore drilling off the coast of South Carolina can move forward. United States District Judge Richard Gergel issued the written opinion Tuesday, February 18th.

The federal government had asked that South Carolina’s lawsuit be dismissed.

“I would like to thank Judge Gergel for allowing South Carolina’s claims to go forward,” Attorney General Alan Wilson said. “This case is vital to South Carolina and its beautiful coastline and natural resources.”

Then-President Obama issued an executive order withdrawing Outer Continental Shelf Lands belonging to the United States from being leased for oil and gas exploration. President Trump then issued an executive order to undo President Obama’s order. South Carolina Attorney General Wilson argues that Congress gave presidents the authority to withdraw land from leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf but did not give presidents the power to reverse that decision and make such areas eligible again for leasing.

The federal government asked that South Carolina’s lawsuit be dismissed but Judge Gergel agreed with the State and his order allows it to proceed.

Judge Gergel’s order states, “The seismic testing applications under challenge by Plaintiffs have been processed since the issuance of the Executive Order, and South Carolina has made a sufficient showing at this stage of the litigation of the relationship between the President’s Executive Order and the challenged permits. The Federal Defendant’s motion to dismiss on the basis of standing is denied.”

The order also references “the final order of the District of Alaska in League of Conservation Voters v. Trump, issued on March 29, 2019, which declared part of President Trump’s Executive Order ‘unlawful and invalid’ because it exceeded the President’s authority to withdraw from protection areas on the OCS that by previous presidential order had been withdrawn from possible oil and gas leasing.”

Judge Gergel concludes, “The Court finds that South Carolina has plausibly set forth its claim. Without presuming to reach the merits of this argument at this stage of the litigation, there is certainly ample evidence that this is a sufficiently serious claim that a federal district judge has vacated Executive Order 13,795 and the Secretary of the Interior has paused efforts to expand oil and gas leasing on the OCS pending further judicial review. The Federal Defendants’ motion to dismiss South Carolina’s claim that Executive Order 13,795 is ultra vires (First Cause of Action) on the basis that is ‘implausible’ and ‘not credible’ is denied.”

You can read the entire order here.


Schedule a Tour or Visit

Welcome to the on-line office for Attorney General Alan Wilson. Please visit the Contact Us page to stay in touch.

image description
Columbia, SC

Rembert Dennis Building | 1000 Assembly Street,

Room 519 | Columbia, S.C. 29201

Phone: 1-803-734-3970 | Fax: (803) 253-6283

Back to top