South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

President Trump approves seismic testing off Carolina coast
November 30th, 2018

by Nicholas Papantonis, WPDE

President Donald Trump approved five permits to explore the Atlantic coast for oil Friday, moving South Carolina one step closer to having offshore drilling.

The permits allow companies to bounce blasts of sound off the ocean floor, a practice condemned by environmentalists.

"The sound itself, every 10 seconds, is as loud as a grenade and they happen 24 hours per day, seven days per week for many months on end," SC Environmental Law Project Executive Director Amy [Armstrong] said.

Because of the distance sound travels underwater, Armstrong and others say animals like whales and dolphins can become severely injured or killed if they get too close.

She said it has human impacts as well.

"It drives fish away from their feeding grounds and from the areas fishermen go to harvest commercial or recreational fish," she said.

Armstrong's firm represents 16 towns and organizations along the Carolina coast, including North Myrtle Beach, Briarcliffe Acres and Pawleys Island.

She said she intends to sue the Trump administration in federal court on behalf of the municipalities to stop the testing from moving forward.

"Why they're not listening to the local people...Governor [Henry] McMaster," Armstrong wondered.

Both McMaster and Representative Tom Rice have previously said they opposed drilling near the Grand Strand, citing the area's reliance on the beaches, water and fishing industries.

A statement from the American Petroleum Institute, which represents oil and gas companies, disputed the safety concerns.

"In the words of the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), 'there has been no documented scientific evidence of noise from air guns used in geological and geophysical (G&G) seismic activities adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities,'" the statement quoted.

It said noise levels are gradually increased to give animals time to leave the immediate area if they are uncomfortable.

A separate statement pointed to the hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars of revenue South Carolina is estimated to collect if drilling is allowed off the coast and the high paying jobs the industry would generate.

Neither White House representatives nor President Trump have commented on the testing permits as of Friday evening.

ABC 15 reached out to representatives of McMaster for comment, but did not immediately hear back.

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