The Trump administration has a habit of moving slower regarding environmental regulatory matters than public statements would lead people to believe, and that habit came around to actually benefit the federal government in a ruling announced Monday in U.S. District Court in South Carolina.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel denied motions for a preliminary injunction made by three separate groups of plaintiffs seeking to halt seismic airgun testing off the Atlantic Coast.

There are four well-known standards that a motion for preliminary injunction typically has to meet to be successful — that the plaintiff is likely to succeed, that the plaintiff would suffer irreparable harm otherwise, that the “balance of equities” is in the plaintiff’s favor and that the injunction is in the public interest.

The problem Gergel sees here is the timeliness of the irreparable harm argument made by environmental organizations, a group that includes Georgia’s One Hundred Miles.

“Over five and a half months have now passed since the motions were filed,” Gergel wrote. “While the organizational plaintiffs argued in March that they could meet their burden to show that irreparable harm was ‘imminent’ as government officials ‘repeatedly stated that (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) permits are imminent,’ it is clear now, over five and a half months later, that those statements were inaccurate.

“Without further information, the court therefore cannot determine whether the permits are imminent, which is a necessary precondition for the alleged irreparable harm here, namely the proposed seismic testing of vast amounts of ocean waters from Delaware to Florida.”

However, the plaintiffs could file again with the prospect of success.

Gergel wrote, “The court notes that, to the extent BOEM permits are issued or there is other definitive evidence of imminent irreparable harm, the plaintiffs and plaintiff-intervenors have leave to refile their motions for a preliminary injunction and, in that instance, the parties may submit the same, or substantially similar, briefs to the extent they remain relevant to the issues.”

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