Groups sue feds to stop seismic airgun blasting in Atlantic Ocean

courtLeading environmental groups are suing the federal government to prevent seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean.

The process, which is used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean’s surface, is the first step toward offshore drilling. If allowed, seismic airgun blasting would harm marine life, including whales, dolphins, fish and zooplankton – the foundation of the ocean food web.

“This action is unlawful and we’re going to stop it,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana. “The Trump administration’s rash decision to harm marine mammals hundreds of thousands of times in the hope of finding oil and gas is shortsighted and dangerous. Seismic airgun blasting can harm everything from tiny zooplankton and fish to dolphins and whales. More than 90 percent of the coastal municipalities in the blast zone have publicly opposed seismic airgun blasting off their coast. We won this fight before and we’ll win it again.”

The lawsuit, filed in South Carolina, claims that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) in late November.

Those permits authorize five companies to harm or harass marine mammals while conducting seismic airgun blasting in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Cape May, New Jersey to Cape Canaveral, Florida. The legal complaint is HERE.

“The Trump administration has steamrolled over objections of scientists, governors and thousands of coastal communities and businesses to enable this dangerous activity. Now it wants to steamroll the law,” said Michael Jasny, director at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Allowing seismic blasting at this scale in these waters is not consistent with the laws that protect our oceans.”

“Ignoring the mounting opposition to offshore drilling, the decision to push forward with unnecessarily harmful seismic testing defies the law, let alone common sense,” said Catherine Wannamaker, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). “An overwhelming number of communities, businesses, and elected officials have made it clear that seismic blasting–a precursor to drilling that no one wants–has no place off our coasts.”

The government has estimated that seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could harass or harm marine mammals like dolphins and whales – which depend on sound to feed, mate and communicate – hundreds of thousands of times.

Seismic airgun blasting would also jeopardize the iconic North Atlantic right whale, a critically endangered species, according to 28 leading right whale experts.

“Seismic airgun surveys pose a dual threat to the biologically rich waters off the Atlantic coast,” said Steve Mashuda, managing attorney for oceans at Earthjustice. “Their continuous blasts can injure and deafen whales, dolphins and other marine life, and they are the sonic harbingers of even greater risks associated with offshore oil and gas drilling.”

“The Trump administration is letting the oil industry launch a brutal sonic assault on North Atlantic right whales and other marine life,” said Kristen Monsell, ocean program legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Right whales will keep spiraling toward extinction if we don’t stop these deafening blasts and the drilling and spilling that could come next. That’s why we’re taking the administration to court.”

 
augusta free press

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