South Carolina’s attorney general is seeking to join a lawsuit filed by coastal towns against the Trump administration over potential offshore oil and natural gas exploration.
Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a motion in federal court Monday seeking to join a lawsuit filed against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by 16 municipalities and the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.
“Once again the federal government seeks to intrude upon the sovereignty of the state of South Carolina,” Wilson said in a statement. “Such action puts our State’s economy, tourism and beautiful natural resources at risk. We are bringing suit to protect the State’s economy and the rule of law.
The suit is intended to block permits issued by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service to five companies which would clear them of any impact to marine wildlife by conducting seismic surveys via seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean. The blasting, which has not yet begun, will test for offshore oil and gas deposits.
“We understand the need to have a long-term, reliable energy supply,” Wilson wrote. “However, any comprehensive energy strategy must comply with the rule of law. While oil and gas exploration could bring in billions of dollars, doing it without adequate study and precautions could end up costing billions of dollars and cause irreversible damage to our economy and coast.”
While environmental groups criticize seismic testing’s potential impact on marine wildlife, the state and local governments primarily fear the inevitable oil drilling which would follow a successful survey.
However, the International Association of Geophysical Contractors said such surveys have occurred in the Gulf of Mexico for years. While the industry says marine wildlife will avoid an area where seismic testing is occurring, they add there is no evidence that it injures whales or other mammals.
The lawsuit argues that the seismic testing would harm and could even destroy the coastal fishing industries in South Carolina, potentially violating the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act. The NMFS permits would authorize potential wildlife impact from the daily course of the surveys.