South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

SC mayors to fight Trump Administration's seismic testing permits
December 3rd, 2018

By Stassy Olmos

BEAUFORT, S.C. - The Trump Administration approved permits to begin seismic testing in the Atlantic, Friday, a preparatory step for possible offshore drilling. With nearly 200 miles of coastline in South Carolina, mayors and conservation groups say they won't go down without a fight.

"I'm disappointed, but not surprised... We knew that under the radar, these permits have been pending for close to three years," said Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling.

The National Marine Fisheries Service approved incidental harassment authorizations for five companies to start seismic air gun testing in the ocean from Delaware to Florida.

"The damage that could be caused by this seismic testing to dozens of species along the Atlantic Coast is just ill advised and it's really unconscionable​​​​​​​," said Rikki Parker with the Coastal Conservation League in South Carolina.

The air guns test for fossil fuels below the ocean floor, conservationists say blasting every ten seconds louder than a jet and potentially disturbing and threatening marine life.

In South Carolina, another big concern surfaced when a study found old military munition sent to the bottom of the ocean in the 1900's harboring hazardous chemicals.

Those who support offshore drilling see the money. A recent study from the American Petroleum Institute estimates offshore drilling to add nearly 280,000 jobs and $23 billion dollars to the U.S. economy every year.

But conservationists say not without impacting other coastal industries.

"It stands the potential to really cost millions of dollars in tourism dollars, and fisheries, those industries are really going to be harmed," Parker told News 3.

Keyserling along with the Coastal Conservation League, South Carolina's Small Business Chamber of Commerce, and several municipalities in the Palmetto state have been preparing for this fight for months.

"In anticipation of this... I worked with 16 mayors, and we have been ready signed up to file for an injunction to stop it," Keyserling said, "We're prepared to fight as long as we have to."

He said lawyers with the South Carolina Environmental Law Project are currently working on a final draft of the injunction. They plan to present it in Federal District Court in Charleston by the end of next week. He adds that they will raise private dollars to fund the legal action.

Keyserling said that several other conservation groups on the East Coast are filing injunctions as well.

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