SC coastal towns celebrate after judge dismisses lawsuit on seismic testing permits

ABC News 4 (Charleston)
October 6, 2020

By Tony Fortier-Bensen

South Carolina coastal towns and conservation groups are celebrating after a judge dropped a lawsuit on seismic testing permits in the Atlantic.

On Tuesday, SC Attorney General Alan Wilson and the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce held a press conference to announce that a federal court dismissed a lawsuit on seismic testing permits, saying the case was “moot” since the permits are ending on Nov. 30th.

Officials say companies who want to do seismic testing offshore to find oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean can’t extend the Nov. 30 deadline, and even if they received expedited permits from Pres. Donald Trump, they would be unable to get the boats in the water.

“With this final disposition of the case and the clock running out on the permits, South Carolina and the entire Atlantic Coast are protected at least for several years from seismic airgun blasting of the ocean floor in the search for oil and gas deposits,” said Frank Knapp Jr., the President & CEO of the Small Business Chamber. “Our marine animals as well as our commercial and recreational fishing industries are safe for now.”

He added that this was a major battle won, but not the war.

Five companies involved in the lawsuit needed an Incidental Harassments Authorization (IHAs), but they cannot be extended, renewed or reissued before the Nov. 30th deadline.

Seismic blasting is a process of loud, continuous blasts of acoustic pulses that can lead to finding oil and gas along the ocean floor. Those against seismic blasting say the blasts disrupts marine life.

Sixteen coastal municipalities named in suit include Beaufort, Charleston, Folly Beach, Isle of Palms, North Myrtle Beach, Bluffton, Briarcliffe Acres, Edisto Beach, Hilton Head Island, James Island, Kiawah Island, Mount Pleasant, Pawleys Island, Port Royal, Seabrook Island and Awendaw.

Below are some statements from a couple of those coastal towns.

Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin said, “Stopping offshore drilling along the coast is vital to protect South Carolina’s beaches. Our beaches are a precious natural resource that provide habitat for several endangered species. They are also the foundation of a tourism economy that brings in over $20 billion dollars annually to our State. The outcome of this lawsuit is an important step, but we look forward to securing a permanent ban, backed by the Federal government. I am eager to work with our Congressional Representatives and Senators on this issue in the future.”

“This is very good news!” said North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley. “Our beautiful environment, which is also of utmost important to our tourism industry, remains protected for a while longer. Together with other coastal jurisdictions, we will continue to monitor any future efforts pertaining to offshore drilling and, if challenged again, we will fight the good fight again.”

“We are pleased to learn of this victory. Protecting our coastal environment from all harm is critical for survival of all marine life and our overall quality of life. We are all connected to the ocean by virtue of living here and to see that connection obliterated would have been devastating to this community. This victory ensures the long-term vitality of our coastal waters for every creature that depends on it and for future generations to enjoy,” said Hilton Head Island Mayor John McCann.



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