A federal judge in the lawsuit in South Carolina regarding seismic air gun testing off the Atlantic Coast ordered Friday a halt on all action by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on pending seismic testing permits.
Three days earlier, it didn’t appear that would be necessary, but evidently one part of the Trump administration was not privy to work being done by the other part, and federal attorneys had to apologize Thursday to the court for this miscommunication.
Lawyers for the federal government call it an “inadvertent mischaracterization” of the Interior Department’s actions.
Tuesday, those lawyers stated in a filing that because of the partial government shutdown, “The Department of the Interior has confirmed that due to the lapse in appropriations, the Department of the Interior will not be acting on pending permit applications for the seismic survey activity at issue in this case until funding is restored.”
BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruikshank explained in a declaration attached to Thursday’s filing, “On Jan. 8, 2019, the Department of the Interior issued a revised contingency plan in the event of a lapse of appropriations for BOEM. Since the issuance of the initial contingency plan in December 2018, BOEM identified certain available carryover funds that could be used for certain purposes.
“The revised contingency plan for BOEM provided, in part, that the bureau will have 40 personnel available on an on-call basis to perform exempt functions related to certain (outer continental shelf) oil and gas activities, including processing of Atlantic (geological and geophysical) permit applications and completing environmental reviews.”
Cruikshank wrote that the statement in the Tuesday filing “was intended to mean that BOEM would not take final action on the permit applications until funding was restored, and was not intended to imply that BOEM is not continuing to process the permit applications or undertake other preparatory work during the lapse in funding.”
He noted BOEM won’t make a final decision on any seismic testing permit application before March 1, regardless of the status of the government shutdown.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel wrote in his Friday order that an injunction against the federal government under the All Writs Act “is necessary so this court can properly assess what remedies, if any the states seeking to intervene are entitled to should BOEM issue permits during this lapse in appropriations.”
The state of South Carolina, through S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, filed a motion to intervene as a plaintiff.
In a separate motion, several other states requested the same, including Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Virginia. Gergel has yet to rule on their entry because of hinderances placed on the federal attorneys to respond to those intervention requests because of the lapse in appropriations. A Dec. 28 order directed the federal attorneys to respond within 13 days after Congress restores funding.
South Carolina pressed the issue Jan. 8, arguing a stay would impede its effort to respond to actions carried out by BOEM in the meantime on the seismic testing permits.
The Friday order continues, “The federal defendants’ sur replay acknowledges that the permits may issue as soon as March 1, 2019, regardless of whether funds have been appropriated for the federal defendants. Should BOEM issue these permits during the stay, as its own contingency plan indicates it may, the states moving to intervene would be directly impacted by the decision, with seismic testing potentially off their shores.
“However, as non-parties in this case, the states would be devoid of the opportunity to seek appropriate remedies. The proposed stay and the federal defendants’ lack of response would prevent the court from bringing the states into the case to vindicate their rights. This would divest this court of jurisdiction to determine the entire matter at issue in this case.
“Further, should the five companies begin seismic air gun testing prior to the end of the shutdown, their actions will also affect this court’s power to assess irreparable harm in any future motion for a preliminary injunction.”
As a result, Gergel enjoined the National Marine Fisheries Service, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, BOEM “and any other federal agency or entity from taking action to promulgate permits, otherwise approve, or take any other official action” regarding the pending permit applications based on the five incidental harassment applications issued by NMFS to the five companies — Spetrum Geo, TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company, Ion GeoVentures, WesternGeco and CGG.
The injection is to remain in effect until three actions take place — the end of the government shutdown, the court receiving the federal defendants’ responses to the motions to intervene and the court’s ruling on those motions.
Nine environmental advocacy groups brought the original complaint Dec. 11, including Georgia organization One Hundred Miles. Sixteen South Carolina cities and towns, including the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, who filed suit the same day, later joined this case when their suit merged with this one.
The five companies issued incidental harassment permits, along with the American Petroleum Institute and the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, filed a motion to intervene as defendants Dec. 21, the same day as the beginning of the shutdown.
Steve Perry, the keynote speaker at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Community Breakfast on Friday, quickly pointed out that King likely would not have been invited to that sort of event.
Truths about the civil rights leaders often get lost in the celebrations of his life, said Perry, an educator who hosts the “Breakthrough with Dr. Steve Perry” television show on Fox.
“In many cases, Dr. King would not have been invited to many of the ceremonies to celebrate his life because the things that he said were so incendiary, so different, that people thought that he was doing it for himself. They said he was just doing it for the publicity and the fame.”
King received hate from many groups, including African Americans, for the ideas he shared.
King’s was a message of love for all, Perry told the breakfast attendees. King preached about loving his friends and enemies, and he fought for a greater vision rather than getting caught up in trivial fights that consumed us then and consume us today.
“We get focused on the wrong things, and as a result of being focused on the wrong things we miss the point of a Dr. King celebration,” Perry said. “A Dr. King celebration, at its core, is about a man who stood for a thing. Whatever that thing is that matters to you, actually stand for it.”
Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority hosted the breakfast, which took place at the the College Place United Methodist Church in Brunswick.
Community Action Authority is the largest comprehensive human service agency in Coastal Georgia.
“Today, we’re here to honor a man whose ideas and dreams have changed the community, the nation and the world,” said Charles Stewart, chairman of the Community Action Authority board.
Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey encouraged the breakfast participants to follow in King’s example by fighting for their own dreams for a better community.
“Will we stand up in times of adversity, or will we sit in times of comfort?” Harvey asked. “The question is, what will you do with your dream?”
King lived life with a target on his back, Perry said, because he dared to stand up and demand better from the world.
“It was because he stood for something so profound and so different called love,” Perry said.
King also knew, though, that he had to convince not only of his enemies but also his friends.
“Dr. King wrote a letter from a Birmingham jail not to white racists — to pastors … of the same denomination from which he preached,” Perry said. “Because it was they, those closest to him, who caused him the most discomfort.”
Perry encouraged the attendees not to look at people’s differences but instead at their commonalities and to work together to fight the real issues in this community.
“We’re spending too much time caught up in the small things,” he said. “There are big picture issues that require our attention. The fact that you know that here in Brunswick there are certain communities that have been poor since you’ve been here means that y’all have got something to think about.”
Tres Hamilton, CEO of Community Action Authority, said this was a call to action for Brunswick and Glynn County.
“We ought to be up and ready, almost running out the door to do the work that’s needed here in this community,” she said.
A new initiative called the “Community of Hope” aims to improve the lives of local families, she said. Community Action Authority is leading a collaborative effort to address generational poverty in this area by improving access to services that can aid struggling families.
Plans are in the works to open a community resource center on the historic Risley High School campus, located in the heart of Brunswick adjacent to some of the community’s most low-income citizens.
“Together, we will wrap our arms around our families and support those families and give them the services that they need,” Hamilton said.
King worked to spread a message of love, Perry said, so that all people can be free. Perry encouraged everyone to focus on the needs of this community, to bring people together for a unified purpose.
“Let today be the beginning of tomorrow,” he said.
His campaign for Glynn County Coroner in 1984 broke a racial barrier, but Abe Brown did not have to ruffle any feathers to win the election.
“Abe was loved by anyone who came into contact with him,” said Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce President Woody Woodside, a long-time friend of Mr. Brown. “He was a man who had a special way of encouraging people to work together.”
The owner of Hall, Jones and Brown Funeral Home in Brunswick and pastor to a flock in Liberty County, Brown died Friday following a lengthy illness. He was 74.
The McIntosh County native and former law enforcement officer won a countywide election in 1984, becoming Glynn County’s first African American coroner. But the significance of his victory extended statewide. “I was the first black coroner in Glynn County and the state of Georgia,” Mr. Brown told The News in 2008.
Mr. Brown held his elected post through two terms, until 1992. He would serve another term as coroner beginning in 2013, appointed by a county judge to fill the post vacated by the death of newly elected coroner Jimmy Durden. In agreeing to step into the position, Mr. Brown insisted that he would not run for the office again when the term expired in 2016.
He earned a reputation as a caring and compassionate public servant in an often thankless job. “You have to remember there is someone who just lost of loved one,” Brown told The News in 2013. “You have to treat each case like it’s your own family.”
Brown was among the first people Neal Jump befriended when he arrived in Glynn County as a state patrol trooper in 1979.
Jump did not hesitate to turn to his old friend for guidance during his successful campaign for Glynn County Sheriff in 2012.
“To me, first and foremost, the community leadership that he gave simply will not be replaced,” Sheriff Jump said Friday. “We can get somebody to lead, but they won be an Abe Brown. He was very instrumental in my running for sheriff, providing that leadership. He was a community leader, but for me he was more like family than anything else.”
Brown served also on the Glynn County Airport Commission and the county’s Board of Elections. Despite his illness, Brown was still ministering to folks at First Anderson Grove Baptist Church in Riceboro in recent weeks, Woodside said.
“I went by to see him a few weeks ago, but they told me he was up in Liberty County with his church,” Woodside said. “He always took particular interest in trying to help people, all people, from all walks of life.”
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Hall, Jones and Brown Funeral Home, 2005 G St. in Brunswick.