Companies back off on seismic testing along East Coast

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – It’s being called a victory for thousands of coastal communities that have been fighting seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.

Thursday, as part of a status conference on litigation, the industry revealed it is backing off on trying to obtain the necessary permission to keep the process going.

“Seismic blasting has no place on the Atlantic coast,” said Alice Keyes from One Hundred Miles, which symbolizes the 100 miles of Georgia’s coastline.

Keyes says One Hundred Miles is among the group of nine organizations that filed suit to delay and ultimately prevent exploration companies from performing seismic blasting which is done to locate deposits of oil and gas on the ocean’s floor.

“The only reason that we filed a lawsuit was to keep seismic boats out of the Atlantic,” said Keyes. “Seismic testing is extremely invasive and harmful to the ocean environment and potentially leading to the extinction of the North Atlantic Right whale.”

Keyes said it is likely the companies may try again but said for now, “we are just celebrating a significant victory.”

She says to try again, the exploration companies would have to begin the two-year process from scratch and Keyes says they would be met with the same legal challenges.

“We may be a small number of groups filing the lawsuit but we truly do represent millions of citizens especially citizens on the East Coast,” she said.

More organizations weigh in

“This is a huge victory not just for us but for every coastal community that loudly and persistently protested the possibility of seismic blasting,” said Catherine Wannamaker, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “There will be no boats in the water this year, and because this resets the clock, there will be no boats in the water for a long time. And we’ll continue fighting to keep it that way.”

Seismic blasting harms whales in the search for offshore oil that we should leave in the ground. We can’t allow the oil industry’s greed to threaten endangered North Atlantic right whales and other vulnerable species,” said Kristen Monsell, ocean legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re happy these animals will have a reprieve from this unjustified acoustic attack on our oceans. We’ll keep fighting to ensure the oil industry stays out of the Atlantic.”

“The end of Atlantic seismic testing for the foreseeable future is a much-needed reprieve for marine life, including the critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale,” said Jane Davenport, senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “However, until there is an outright ban on offshore oil and gas drilling along the East Coast, we will continue to fight against this disruptive and dangerous practice.”

“Seismic surveys are the precursor to offshore drilling, but these waters are far too important to sacrifice to Big Oil. There’s no need to risk irreplaceable marine wildlife just for potential information about oil deposits that should never be drilled in the first place,” said Earthjustice Managing Attorney Steve Mashuda. “We’re grateful there will be no airgun blasting in the near future and will keep up the fight to make sure it stays that way.”

“We are relieved that the threat of seismic testing and its damage to marine wildlife is at least temporarily lifted,” said Laura Cantral, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League. “It’s vital that we use this pause to secure a permanent ban on offshore energy exploration activities and drilling in South Carolina and adjoining waters, and finally put an end to the unacceptable risk it poses to our economy and environment.”

“There will be no seismic blasting this year, and none of the senseless harm that would bring to our whales and fish and coastal communities, but the Trump administration has left the door open to new proposals from industry,” said Michael Jasny, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at NRDC, “The only way to end the threat is to prohibit offshore oil and gas exploration for good.”

“Communities can breathe a little easier knowing the Atlantic is now safe from seismic airgun blasting in 2020. Today’s much needed news is a bright spot and in line with the court of public opinion. Over 90 percent of coastal municipalities in the proposed blast zone are opposed to opening our coast to offshore drilling and its dangerous precursor, seismic airgun blasting. The expiration of these unlawful permits will finally protect coastal communities and our marine life. Oceana has been campaigning for more than a decade to protect our coast from dirty and dangerous offshore drilling activities. We are going to do everything in our power to permanently protect our coasts and ensure dynamite-like blasting never starts,” said Diane Hoskins, Oceana campaign director.

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