Ignoring Overwhelming Opposition, Trump Administration to Resume Consideration of Seismic Blasting
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) released the following statement after the Trump Administration announced plans to resume consideration of seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean, reversing a decision by the federal government in January to deny seismic permits in the face of strong coastal opposition.
“Seismic blasting is the first step to opening the Atlantic to offshore drilling — a move which has been consistently and overwhelmingly rejected by business owners, more than 120 coastal communities, and elected officials on both sides of the aisle,” said Sierra Weaver, SELC Senior Attorney. “These communities are not only concerned about drilling, but also about the harm to endangered whales, dolphins, and local fish stocks from seismic blasts. These are communities where people come to eat the local seafood and watch the dolphins play in the surf. Coastal residents will continue mobilizing to make clear that they do not support seismic blasting in the Atlantic.”
Earlier this month SELC, on behalf of the North Carolina Coastal Federation, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, One Hundred Miles, and Defenders of Wildlife, moved to intervene in an industry challenge to the federal government’s denial of permits for seismic testing in the Atlantic.
Used to locate and quantify potential oil and gas deposits, seismic surveys involve the firing blasts of air from large air guns toward the ocean floor for days or weeks at a time. Seismic blasts have been known to travel more than a thousand miles through the ocean, disorienting, hurting, deafening, or even killing nearby marine life. The Department of the Interior estimates that more thanover 100,000 marine mammals, including the highly endangered North Carolina right whale, will be harmed by seismis blasting. Studies have shown that seismic testing could potentially harm commercial and recreational fishing—central to coastal economies—by decreasing catch rates by as much as 80 percent.
Coastal communities have long rejected oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast. When the Obama Administration included the Southeast Atlantic coast in its proposed five-year oil and gas leasing plan, it met widespread and intense opposition by coastal communities and business and political leaders. More than 120 cities and towns along the Eastern seaboard expressed their opposition by passing resolutions against offshore drilling and seimic testing, including 100 percent of communities along South Carolina’s coast. These communities know that the only way to truly identify oil and gas deposits is to drill exploratory wells – exactly the type of activity that caused the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 – and that the only reason to test for the presence of oil and gas is ultimately to drill for oil and gas production.
After considering impacts to fisheries, the military, local economies, and the environment, as well as the low price of oil, the federal government’s final five-year drilling plan for 2017 – 2022 excluded the Southeast Atlantic. The Obama administration later denied applications for seismic as well, finding that the technology was unnecessarily harmful to the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With nine offices across the region (Charlottesville, VA; Chapel Hill, NC; Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; Washington, DC; Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; and Richmond, VA), SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect the South’s natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org.