On Feb. 20, a group of conservation organizations asked a federal judge to block the start of seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean, a precursor to offshore drilling, until the case can fully be heard.
The motion for a preliminary injunction filed in federal court in Charleston contends, among other things, the Trump administration’s approval for five companies to harm ocean animals with seismic airgun blasting violates three federal laws — the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Separately, 16 South Carolina coastal communities and the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce also filed a lawsuit to prevent seismic blasting. That lawsuit has been merged with the one from the conservation groups. Ten East Coast attorneys general, including South Carolina’s Alan Wilson, have intervened in the combined lawsuits.
However, without today’s request from the conservation organizations, the blasting could begin before this case is fully resolved.
“Allowing oil and gas companies to proceed with the activity we are challenging while the case is heard is like letting a city build a highway through a community while that community is trying to stop the construction in court. Once the damage is done, it’s done,” said Steve Mashuda, Earthjustice attorney representing Sierra Club and Surfrider in the litigation.
Today’s filing asserts that:
- Dolphins, whales and other animals could endure five million blasts as these companies seek offshore oil and gas deposits.
- The blasts will happen approximately every 10 seconds for weeks or months at a time.
- Seismic airguns create one of the loudest sources of noise in the oceans.
- The government failed to consider the combined effects of overlapping and simultaneous surveys, which are greater than the effects of individual seismic-blasting boats.
- The government erroneously determined that only a “small number” of whales and dolphins would be harmed.
- Should it go forward, this blasting will irreparably harm marine species, from tiny zooplankton—the foundation of ocean life—to the great whales.
The South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, North Carolina Coastal Federation, Oceana, One Hundred Miles, Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation are bringing the case. The Southern Environmental Law Center is representing South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Defenders of Wildlife, North Carolina Coastal Federation, and One Hundred Miles. Earthjustice is representing Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation.