South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

SCDHEC Asked to Revisit 2015 Decisions to Approve Seismic Testing Permits 
Posted: August 6, 2019

For immediate release

16 South Carolina coastal communities and the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce ask state agency to coordinate with BOEM to review prior state seismic testing authorizations  

Four years ago, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) told three companies that their seismic surveying proposals off the South Carolina coast were consistent with the state’s Coastal Management Program. But this past July, in light of new scientific studies on the harmful nature of seismic blasting, DHEC told a different company with a nearly identical proposal, No.

Given DHEC’s consideration of these new studies and the new opinions of the Department of Natural Resources in rejecting WesternGeco’s seismic application, 16 coastal communities and the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce urged the department in a letter today to reconsider its 2015 decision to authorize seismic activities for the three companies, CGG Services Inc, GX Technology Corporation and Spectrum Geo Inc.

The letter was submitted by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), a Georgetown-based nonprofit law firm representing the 16 municipalities and the Chamber in the federal lawsuit opposing offshore testing. The letter asks DHEC to initiate supplemental coordination with the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) to review again the 2015 requests for consistency with the state’s coastal program.

“Though the nature of the currently proposed activity is virtually identical to what the seismic testing companies proposed in 2015, the availability of specific data on the severe impacts of this activity has been vastly increased. Dozens of new studies have been published shedding light on the magnitude of the impacts to the marine environment and economy,” according to the SCELP letter.  

“Clearly, this new information has swayed DHEC from its earlier conclusion that the surveying was consistent with the State coastal management plan. Based on this, the Department should commence with notifying BOEM and the three seismic testing companies listed above of the Department’s determination that supplemental coordination should occur,” the letter concludes.

Last month—after resounding opposition from residents, federal and state officials, environmental groups and businesses—DHEC determined WesternGeco’s application to conduct seismic blasting off South Carolina waters was inconsistent with our coastal policies. DHEC said its decision was based on new scientific research that addresses the significant negative impacts of seismic surveying on the state’s marine resources and economy.   

The South Carolina Environmental Law Project protects the natural environment of South Carolina by providing legal services and advice to environmental organizations and concerned citizens and by improving the state’s system of environmental regulation. 

SCELP is representing 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, as well as the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce in the federal lawsuit.  

Background on the 2015 decision can be found here.

Media contact:

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