Environmental Groups Will Join South Carolina Cities to Sue Over Offshore Drilling Tests
2018-12-10 | Post & Courier
Nine conservation groups and 16 South Carolina coastal communities are expected to sue the Trump administration Tuesday to stop leases to explore for natural gas and oil offshore.
The lawsuits will claim the leases violate the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits harassing or killing animals such as whales or dolphins.
The exploration would include seismic-blast testing that involves loud airguns considered harmful to marine mammals and other sea life.
“Ignoring the mounting opposition to offshore drilling, the decision to push forward with unnecessary seismic testing violates the law, let alone common sense,” said
“An overwhelming number of communities, businesses and elected officials have made it clear that seismic blasting - a precursor to drilling that nobody wants - has no place off our coasts,” she said.
The 16 municipalities are
Also part of the litigation is the
“We are disappointed that the National Marine Fisheries Service authorized serious impacts to the critically endangered right whale, along with hundreds of thousands of other species of marine life, in order to allow for unnecessary seismic blasting,” said attorney
“The coast has spoken loudly and repeatedly against seismic airgun surveying and offshore drilling. But the current administration refuses to listen. I hope that the courts agree with us that this activity is unnecessary and illegal,” she said.
The law center is suing on behalf of
The legal salvo has been anticipated. Center attorneys said in late November they were looking at all available options to challenge these permits and that “obviously a lawsuit is an available option.”
In November, federal regulators released a long-awaited final authorization for the seismic tests under the Marine Mammal Act, which allowed for incidental harassment so long as some precautions are taken. It was the final step needed for the federal
After huddling with McMaster last week, S.C. Attorney General
It will be up to nine companies to follow up on requested permits to explore any or all of five zones from mid-
In seismic testing, exploration companies survey for fossil fuels in the ocean bottom by detonating sound blasts from airguns that can deafen, injure and scatter marine animals, according to studies by the federal government and other groups.
The findings are then sold to oil companies.
For the tests, the powerfully loud guns are fired underwater every 16 seconds to read “echoes” from the bottom geology. The tests take place over miles of ocean for months at a time.
Industry representatives say advances in drilling technology have made the operations safer, and that seismic surveys have taken place for a half-century with no direct evidence that they harm sea animals, commercial fishing or tourism. Studies say they do affect the animals.