A nonprofit environmental law firm representing 16 South Carolina coastal communities and small businesses filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on Wednesday, Feb. 21, to block seismic surveys from beginning in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf until a separate lawsuit is resolved. In the interim, a number of upcoming pop-up rallies are being planned by state and national organizations to lend more voices to the issue.
The initial lawsuit, filed on Dec. 11, 2018, outlines that the decision to issue incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs) violates three federal laws – the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The IHAs were issued to five companies in order to conduct seismic testing surveys off the Atlantic coast, a precursor to offshore drilling, and the preliminary injunction prevents the companies from proceeding with seismic testing before the lawsuit is resolved.
The North Carolina Coastal Federation (NCCF) reports that they are awaiting the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s release of a proposed oil and gas leasing program, which identifies the planning areas where lease sales for offshore drilling would occur. North Carolina is anticipated to be one of the planning areas included, which includes the waters off the Outer Banks.
Meanwhile, the NCCF and partners across the state have decided to host pop-up rallies along the coast and in Raleigh and Asheville, N.C. to demonstrate opposition to offshore oil and gas exploration along our coast.
The rallies will occur within 48 hours of the public release of the proposed plan, and the public can sign up to receive texts about the details of each rally in advance.
The NCCF also encourages affected North Carolina residents to take action by contacting their local members of Congress to express their concerns. Key talking points listed by the NCCF, per the nonprofit organization Oceana, are listed below.
Key Points About Seismic Testing from Oceana:
- Dolphins, whales and other marine animals could endure five million blasts as these companies seek offshore oil and gas deposits.
- The blasts will happen approximately every 10 seconds for weeks or months at a time.
- Seismic air guns create one of the loudest sources of noise in the oceans.
- The government failed to consider the combined effects of overlapping and simultaneous surveys.
- The government erroneously determined that only a “small number” of whales and dolphins would be harmed.
- Should it go forward, this blasting will irreparably harm marine species, from tiny zooplankton—the foundation of ocean life—to the great whales.
- The National Marine Fisheries Service has authorized one company to harm more than 50,000 dolphins and another company to harm 20,000 more.
- Seismic air gun blasting could irreparably harm the small population of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, a species on the verge of extinction. There are only about 400 right whales remaining in the Atlantic. Further, the filing shows that blasting ships would “concentrate their fire” on the world’s densest population of acoustically sensitive beaked whales off North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
Organizations bringing the case include: Oceana, The South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, North Carolina Coastal Federation, One Hundred Miles, Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation are bringing the case. The Southern Environmental Law Center is representing South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Defenders of Wildlife, North Carolina Coastal Federation and One Hundred Miles. Earthjustice is representing Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation.