SC Governor McMaster & 9 other East Coast Governors send letter opposing offshore oil exploration

The bipartisan political opposition to the Trump Administration’s efforts to approve exploration for oil off the Atlantic Coast continued yesterday.

Ten East Coast governors signed a letter to Wilbur Ross (Secretary of the Dept. of Commerce) and Ryan Zinke (soon-to-be former Secretary of the Dept. of Interior) detailing their opposition.

Governor Henry McMaster, who signed the letter (see below), continues to be a leader in protecting our coast from the economic and environmental destruction that would result from oil exploration and drilling.

In another development yesterday, 9 Atlantic Coast attorneys general joined in the lawsuit filed by conservation groups against the recently approved Incidental Harassment Authorizations, the precursor to seismic blasting permits being issued for oil exploration.

The national story by the Washington Post incorrectly said that the South Carolina’s AG’s Office was part of the other AGs’ action (the Post and Courier got it right).

SC Attorney General, Alan Wilson, and his staff are fully engaged in opposing offshore oil exploration.  We can expect some important announcements in the near future.


December 20, 2018

The Honorable Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20230

The Honorable Ryan Zinke
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20240


Dear Secretary Ross and Secretary Zinke:

As the governors of 10 states on the Atlantic seaboard, we write to reiterate our strong opposition to seismic airgun surveys and oil and gas drilling off our coasts. These activities pose an unacceptable and unnecessary threat to our coastal ecosystems and coastal economies. We emphatically disagree with the recent decision by the Department of Commerce to issue incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs) for seismic airgun surveys in the Atlantic Ocean. We urge the Department of the Interior to deny permits for seismic airgun surveys in the Atlantic. In addition, we adamantly oppose the inclusion of any Atlantic Ocean region in the final 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

The coastal economies in each of our states depend upon vibrant tourism and fishing industries. The IHAs would allow five companies to conduct seismic airgun surveys in the Atlantic Ocean, despite peer-reviewed evidence portending significant harmful impacts to marine mammals and fisheries, including endangered species. Seismic airgun surveying can cause acute, cumulative, and chronic negative impacts on the ability of marine mammals to send and receive signals that are essential for feeding, reproduction, raising offspring, and navigation. The repeated, loud noises from airgun blasts also risk diminishing essential fish stocks for commercial and recreational fishing communities in our states.

The seismic survey restrictions in the IHAs do not ensure that such activities will have a negligible impact on affected species. These restrictions, for example, fail to account for the ability of seismic airgun pulses to travel over long distances, the correct exposure thresholds for changes in species behavior, and the cumulative impacts of conducting multiple seismic airgun surveying operations at once. As a result, conducting seismic surveys under these authorizations can lead to mortality and permanent injury of fish and marine mammals, including endangered species such as the North Atlantic right whale.

The Atlantic Coast’s ocean economy generates more than $98 billion in gross domestic product, an economic impact that would be jeopardized by seismic airgun surveys and offshore oil and gas drilling. More than 200 local governments have passed resolutions opposing seismic airgun surveying and/or offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. Tourism associations, convention and visitors bureaus, businesses, trade groups, and elected officials from both sides of the aisle also have voiced opposition to these activities.

State and local leaders in our states have voiced consistent, bipartisan opposition to seismic airgun surveys and offshore drilling. We ask that you respect our request and concerns by denying all permit applications and issuing no further IHAs for seismic airgun surveys in the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, we request that you exclude the Atlantic Ocean from the 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for offshore drilling and deny any future activities whose purpose is to support offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.


Roy Cooper, Governor of North Carolina

Henry McMaster, Governor of South Carolina

Dannel Malloy, Governor of Connecticut

Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York

Larry Hogan, Governor of Maryland

Charlie Baker, Governor of Massachusetts

John Carney, Governor of Delaware

Ralph Northam, Governor of Virginia

Gina Raimondo, Governor of Rhode Island

Phillip D. Murphy, Governor of New Jersey

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