NC officials appeals federal decision to allow seismic surveying

The hash-marked area on this map indicates where WesternGeco proposes conducting seismic surveys off the U.S. coast (WesternGeco graphic)

RALEIGH —  Governor Roy Cooper Wednesday announced North Carolina will continue to fight against seismic testing along the state’s coast.

North Carolina has filed an appeal of the decision by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to override the state’s objection to WesternGeco’s plan for offshore seismic testing. Gov. Cooper said in a press release Wednesday North Carolina has been clear in its position on seismic surveys.

“We do not want seismic testing in our coastal waters, or the damage from offshore drilling that could follow,” the governor said. “The studies of our waters show little prospect for drilling, and the environmental damage to our coast could be irreparable if seismic testing goes forward.”

Seismic surveying is a matter that has proven contentious in recent years, including in Carteret County. The surveys use blasts from pressurized air guns to test for offshore oil and natural gas deposits without exploratory drilling. Concerns have been raised by environmentalists, scientists and others about the potential environmental effects of the surveys and the offshore drilling that may result from them. These concerns range from the blasts potentially injuring marine animals to the long-term effects of allowing offshore drilling near coastal economies that are heavily reliant on tourism. 

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Northern Division to appeal the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s June decision to override the state’s objection to the consistency certification under the Coastal Zone Management Act. In June of 2019, the Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Coastal Management objected to WesternGeco’s proposal to conduct a Geological and Geophysical survey off the North Carolina coast.

DEQ Secretary Michael Regan said in the press release state officials “will continue to take all necessary actions to protect our coastal resources and economy.”

“These destructive activities are not welcome off the North Carolina coastline,” Mr. Regan said. “We support the communities along our coast who have vehemently opposed seismic testing that would lead to offshore drilling.”

In 2019, local government leaders signed a resolution to oppose seismic testing and the offshore drilling that could follow. Coastal leaders also expressed their concerns about the effects of offshore drilling on the state’s coastal economy during a roundtable with Gov. Cooper last fall.

The N.C. Department of Justice is representing the state in the matter. Documents related to the case can be found on the DCM website at


Reporter Mike Shutak contributed to this article. 

(3) comments

David Collins

No need to get your knickers in a bunch . We will be mostly powered by renewables shortly . By the way , how is that working out California ?


Living on the coast of NC, I guess I wouldn’t like offshore drilling, but….

Seismic surveys are like CAT scans primarily used for oil and gas exploration. Something needs to be done or we will end up like California, rolling blackouts.

Governor Cooper has denied pipelines for natural gas in our state.

Again, Cooper, being unreasonable, is leading us to higher electric costs.

David Collins

These environmentalists are a silly bunch . They go on and on about exiting from a petroleum based economy . Conveniently failing to mention that most everything they have and use is in one way or another petroleum based . Supposedly this is an educated bunch and far wiser than we deplorable ones are . They are , aren’t they ?

Welcome to the discussion.

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