South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

16 Coastal Communities and Small Businesses Implore DHEC to Oppose Seismic Blasting
Posted: July 1, 2019

For immediate release

Company’s request to conduct seismic surveys off S.C. coast will adversely impact marine life and coastal economy.   

JULY 1, 2019 — Sixteen coastal cities, towns and the state’s small business chamber submitted a joint comment letter to state regulators expressing adamant opposition to WesternGeco’s request to collect two-dimensional geophysical seismic data off the South Carolina coast.

The company’s application for State authorization to conduct seismic blasting in search of oil and gas deposits is contrary to the South Carolina Coastal Management Plan and inconsistent with the best interests of South Carolina coastal residents, according to the comment letter submitted by the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, and the cities and towns of 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.

Together, the civic organization and municipalities represent hundreds of thousands of members and coastal residents who stand to be harmed if State authorization is granted to WesternGeco.

Their letter was submitted today, July 1st, to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), a Georgetown-based nonprofit law firm representing the commenters in the federal lawsuit opposing offshore testing.

The seismic surveys proposed by WesternGeco involve towing an array of airguns that blast acoustic pulses at the ocean floor approximately every ten seconds, twenty-four hours a day, for months at a time—an injurious and extensive process known to harm and injure whales, sea turtles, fish and other marine animals and thus foreseeably harm South Carolina’s $22.6 billion tourism industry and its vital commercial and recreational fishery industries.

“Marine life relies on sound for every activity essential to survival. From foraging and mating to navigating, avoiding predators and communicating, their lives literally depend upon the ability to hear,” said SCELP Executive Director Amy Armstrong. “Disrupting that sense harms everything in the ocean, from marine mammals and sea turtles down to zooplankton, which is the basis of the food chain. We are imploring DHEC to deny WesternGeco's application to conduct harmful seismic blasting because our well-being and quality of life depends on a healthy, hearing ocean.”

By the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM)’s own analysis, negligible oil and gas deposits exist off the South Carolina coastline. The expected offshore drilling revenue also falls abundantly short of the billions of dollars in revenue that the state’s tourism, recreation and fishing industries bring.

What’s more, in its permit application to BOEM, WesternGeco claims that “[i]t is not anticipated that [using] this equipment will have any environmental impact,” despite irrefutable evidence that the seismic testing would have a significant and continuing negative impact on both fish stocks and their habitat. Clearly, WesternGeco is incapable of fathoming the considerable damage its proposed survey will do to South Carolina. Further, WesternGeco has offered no evidence of any socio-economic benefits of its disruptive seismic testing.

Every South Carolina coastal municipality has passed resolutions opposing seismic testing. This activity is also opposed by the Governor, the Attorney General and the South Carolina Legislature, which passed a budget proviso in May that precludes the granting of permits for building the necessary infrastructure to support offshore drilling.

In short, South Carolina regulators must know that seismic testing is unnecessary, unwanted and unhealthy for our state’s precious natural environment and economy.  

Media contact:

Amy Armstrong, Esquire Executive Director South Carolina Environmental Law Project [email protected], (843) 527-0078