South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Coastal business owners concerned about seismic testing in Atlantic
February 26th, 2019

By Zach Logan and Jennifer Lifsey

TYBEE ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - Coastal business owners say they're worried about the chances of seismic testing becoming a reality in the Atlantic.

Lawmakers in Georgia and South Carolina want to shut it down, but federal law is advancing in favor of the drills.

Those living and working off the coast say seismic testing could become a big issue.

A bill is currently in the works that would prevent seismic testing and offshore drilling along our coast. If the bill becomes a law, it would only be regulated in state waters, which is three miles off the coast. Anything after three miles belongs to the federal government.

At this time, companies are being allowed to come in to conduct seismic testing and offshore drilling.

Captain Elizabeth Johnson and her husband own Tybee Island Charters. She says she attended a workshop last week and learned that several companies were given federal approval to begin seismic testing off the Atlantic Coast.

The Southern Environmental Law Center has since asked a federal judge to block that approval, which we’re still waiting to hear the judge’s decision.

Captain Johnson says she's concerned of the impacts seismic testing could bring to Georgia's coast.

“When those five companies get those permits, they will be able to shoot between 14-48 guns on each boat, and that air gun blast goes out for 2,500 miles,” says Captain Elizabeth Johnson, Tybee Island Charters.

Johnson also says the blasts could force marine life to flee the area. She tells me no marine life means no fishing and no sightseeing, which could put her out of business. She now plans to contact our federal representatives to get their support to stop seismic testing from coming to the Atlantic Coast.

Offshore drilling continues to be a point of contention in the Palmetto State as well. In January, the state filed a motion hoping to block planned seismic testing and offshore drilling along the coast.

That had put them in league with the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, which filed a suit on behalf of 16 communities along the coast, including Beaufort, Port Royal and Hilton Head Island.

Attorney General Alan Wilson was in Hilton Head on Monday and says he’s ready to take this case to the Supreme Court if necessary.

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