February 22, 2019
A coalition of conservation groups has asked a federal judge to block the start of seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean until the case can be fully heard in court, Kallanish Energy reports.
The request was filed on Wednesday in Charleston, South Carolina. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel.
The request for a preliminary injunction to block the seismic testing was filed by nine conservation groups: the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League; the Center for Biological Diversity; Defenders of Wildlife; Natural resources Defense Council; North Carolina Coastal Federation; Oceans; One Hundred Miles; Sierra Club; and the Surfrider Foundation.
They contend the Trump administration’s approval for five companies to allegedly harm ocean animals with seismic blasting violates three federal laws. The blasting would harm dolphins, endangered whales, sea turtles and other ocean life, the groups say.
Separately, 16 South Carolina coastal communities and the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce have also filed suit against seismic testing. Both suits have been merged.
The seismic testing is planned in advance of offshore oil and natural gas drilling along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts under President Trump’s plan. That plan has run into opposition from coastal states because of the threat to tourism and commercial fisheries.
Under the Trump plan, the seismic companies would be permitted to harass whales and sea turtles, but would not allow the companies to kill them.
Survey vessels would be required to have observers on board to listen and watch for marine life and alert operators if a protected species comes within a certain distance. Acoustic monitoring will be used to detect those swimming beneath the ocean’s surface.
Surveys must shut down when certain sensitive species or groups are observed, and penalties will be imposed if vessels strike marine animals.