South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

DHEC objects to company’s permit application for seismic blasting off SC coast
July 8th, 2019

By Taylor Murray, WCBD

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, DHEC, will not be supporting a federal permit application from WesternGeco for state permission to conduct seismic blasting off our coastline.

This decision comes one week after sixteen coastal communities and small businesses sent a joint letter of concerns to DHEC about seismic activities off South Carolina’s coast.

DHEC held a 30-day public comment period, ending last week, for South Carolinians to weigh-in on WesternGeco’s proposal for seismic activities in federal waters off our coastline. More than 1,700 individual comments were received— every comment opposing seismic testing.

Local fishing instructor, Jerald Grenier, says he applauds DHEC’s objection letter to WesternGeco. He says, “I believe it’s a move in the right direction…it shows that DHEC is actually thinking about the environment, at this time. It’s a move that can help protect the marine life and its well needed”.

Through evaluating the publics comments, including input from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, DHEC determined that the proposed seismic activities of WesternGeco are not consistent with the policies of the South Carolina Coastal Management Program due to the potential impacts on sea turtles and on commercial and recreational fisheries.

“DHEC is not in place for the businessman. DHEC is in place for the people and our environment. That’s why we count on them to police and protect our environment. They have to be our lookout. It stops at them and their decision is important to protect these animals,” Grenier said.

Several in the Lowcountry are already vocalizing support of the state agency’s rejection of the Seismic application.

Amy Armstrong, Executive Director of The South Carolina Environmental Law Project says, “Today’s objection letter is an important step because the state regulatory agency has gone on record rejecting WesternGeco’s request for consistency with its seismic testing proposal. DHEC’s objection letter identifies 1,720 public comments that were submitted, and every single one of them asked the agency to deny consistency. DHEC’s decision is well-reasoned, relying on opinions and expertise of the SC Department of Natural Resources, as well as the most current research which indicates that seismic testing presents significant risks to commercial and recreational fisheries, zooplankton which for the base of the food chain, and sea turtles. Seismic testing has been shown to cause physiological and behavioral changes, and can lead to temporary and permanent hearing loss, which is particularly troubling for our marine species. We applaud DHEC’s decision to protect our fisheries and tourism industries, and our coastal resources more broadly.”

Congressman Joe Cunningham, (D) 1st District, says, “WesternGeco’s proposed seismic airgun blasting activities would violate our coastal management program and policies, which are vital to protecting the Lowcountry’s vibrant natural resources. DHEC’s decision that WesternGeco’s application for a seismic testing permit is inconsistent with the policies of these programs is a key decision in the fight against offshore drilling and seismic airgun blasting. A diverse group of voices made their opposition to the issuance of seismic testing permits known – including over 1700 individual public comments – and it’s obvious our state heard them loud and clear. I applaud DHEC for taking into account the views of South Carolinians and Lowcountry residents.”

The Coastal Conservation League, Executive Director, Laura Cantral says, “DHEC made the right call today, and its decision is grounded in the best available science and input from South Carolinians. All 1,720 comments submitted to the state agency opposed seismic testing. This is yet another signal to Washington that dangerous seismic testing, the precursor to offshore oil and gas drilling, is not up for debate in our state. The Trump administration should immediately dismiss its dangerous plans and protect communities that rely on a healthy and vibrant coast.

For more information on DHEC’s objection letter to WesternGeco click here:

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