Offshore Drilling

Defending Our Southern Coasts

Our Southern beaches are world famous destinations, and our fisheries are among the most productive in the world. For more than 30 years, SELC has worked to protect our coastal resources, and we remain a leading voice against opening the Southeast to offshore drilling.

Going to Court

SELC and several conservation groups have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to stop seismic blasting—the use of loud airguns to test the ocean floor for fuels—in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Trump administration on Nov. 30 issued “incidental harassment permits” to five seismic surveying companies, allowing them to harm dolphins and whales – including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. These permits, harmful on their own, are the first step in opening the Atlantic to oil and gas exploration.

A coalition of bi-partisan mayors and state and federal representatives joined SELC a week later on the steps of the Charleston Federal Courthouse in support of the lawsuit to block the blasting.

Thirteen of 14 East Coast governors from both parties have gone on-the-record to oppose offshore drilling and seismic blasting, and several have asked President Trump to halt his administration's plans. They are joined by more than 200 East Coast towns, cities and counties have passed resolutions opposing seismic blasting and offshore drilling for oil and gas, yet the Trump administration is still moving forward against the wishes of thousands on the Atlantic Coast. 

Meet Senior Attorney Sierra Weaver, who goes above and beyond to protect our coast from offshore drilling and seismic blasting.

Risks of Oil Drilling 

The Obama administration announced in 2015 it was considering opening up the Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia coasts to offshore oil and gas drilling. But opposition from government and business leaders up and down the coast caused a reversal, effectively ending any potential oil exploration for at least five years. 

However, shortly after taking office, President Trump’s directed his administration to reconsider that decision, and then-Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke moved to open the Atlantic to offshore leasing by oil companies.

The Trump administration’s leasing plan is the largest in U.S. history, potentially bringing risky offshore drilling to more of America’s shores. At the same time, the Trump administration is rolling back offshore drilling safety measures put in place after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

In the Spring, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced an indefinite pause on drilling, but won't say how long the pause will be. Because of the uncertainty of the Interior Department's stance, It is more critical than ever to remain vigilant and to push for a permanent drilling ban in the Atlantic. Because if the Trump administration succeeds, oil drilling could occur closer to more of our coast and operate with fewer safeguards, jeopardizing the livelihoods of communities who depend on the coast and its fisheries.

Coastal Riches

The beautiful and biologically rich Southeast Coast features some of the most beloved places in the country, including the Chesapeake Bay, the Pamlico Sound, the ACE Basin, and Mobile Bay. Our coasts attract millions of tourists, anglers, and other visitors each year.

Tourism and fishing—both commercial and recreational—are the economic backbone of hundreds of communities along our coasts. 

Problematic Infrastructure

The environmental impacts of offshore drilling and its accompanying onshore infrastructure like refineries were well known even before the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Ocean rigs routinely spill and leak oil—and sometimes blow out.

Even without a major spill, the industrialization and infrastructure associated with drilling—the rigs, refineries, pipelines, traffic, and routine spills and accidents—would irreparably change our coastal communities and economies. Hurricanes that frequent our region could make these impacts even more dangerous.  

Not Worth the Risk

The South has too much to lose and too little to gain by opening up the Southeast coast and eastern Gulf to offshore oil drilling. Instead SELC advocates for increased energy efficiency and development of clean, renewable energy sources like offshore wind and solar.

For more information and to get involved, visit