SELC Statement on Reports the Trump Administration Will Issue Seismic Blasting Permits

Following reports that the Trump administration is preparing to issue permits needed for seismic blasting despite virtually unanimous coastal opposition, the Southern Environmental Law Center released the following statement:

“Permitting seismic blasting in the South Atlantic is completely out of touch with Southeast communities, business leaders, and elected officials who have consistently and overwhelmingly rejected offshore drilling and the seismic blasting that precedes it,” said Catherine Wannamaker, an SELC Senior Attorney. “Seismic surveys not only pave the way for offshore drilling that no one wants here, but they also endanger whales, dolphins, and fisheries, and threaten coastal economies. Communities up and down the coast have made clear they do not support seismic blasting in the Atlantic, and they will continue to fight the Trump administration turning its back on them.”

Used to locate and quantify potential oil and gas deposits, seismic testing involves the firing of blasts from large air guns toward the ocean floor every 10 seconds for months at a time. These blasts have been known to travel more than a thousand miles through the ocean, and studies have shown that seismic blasting can harm commercial and recreational fishing—vital to coastal economies—by decreasing catch rates by as much as 80 percent.

Seismic testing can also hurt, deafen, or even kill nearby marine life.  For highly endangered North Atlantic right whales, which come to South Atlantic waters give birth, seismic surveys are a dire threat. The right whale is at the brink of extinction following the deaths of 20 whales during 2017 and 2018, an unprecedented loss the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has deemed a “crisis”for the species. There were no known births this year.   

Coastal communities have long rejected oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic. When the Obama administration included the South Atlantic Coast in its proposed oil and gas leasing program, it met widespread and intense opposition by coastal communities and business and political leaders. That opposition continued with the release of the Trump administration’s draft leasing proposal in January, 2018. 

More than 200 local governments along the Eastern Seaboard have passed resolutions against offshore drilling and seismic testing, including 100 percent of communities along South Carolina’s coast. The governors of Southeast states have similarly expressed concern, with Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina requesting the complete exclusion of their states from any drilling proposal. Governor McMaster of South Carolina and nearly all other elected officials in the state have repeatedly stated opposition to seismic testing in our waters.

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