Coalition asks federal judge to stop offshore seismic airgun blasting

FILE - In this file photo taken Aug. 19, 2008, the Chevron Genesis Oil Rig Platform is seen in the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans, La. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, file)

FILE - In this file photo taken Aug. 19, 2008, the Chevron Genesis Oil Rig Platform is seen in the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans, La. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, file)

A coalition of environmental advocacy organizations has asked a federal judge to block the commencement of seismic airgun blasting, a precursor to offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, until a related lawsuit attempting to stop the entire project can be entirely heard in court.

The preliminary injunction was filed in federal court in Charleston, South Carolina by the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, North Carolina Coastal Federation, Oceana, One Hundred Miles, Sierra Club, and the Surfrider Foundation.

The group contends that the Trump administration’s offshore drilling plan violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.

The National Marine Fisheries Service authorized permits late last year under the Marine Mammal Protection Act for five companies to use air guns for seismic surveys from Delaware to central Florida

Environmentalists say the blasting, which is used to find oil and gas formations deep under the ocean floor, can disturb or injure whales, sea turtles, and other marine life.

Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana, says the issue deserves its day in court.

“We can’t let this dangerous activity cause a species to go extinct just so the oil industry can open our oceans to offshore drilling. Up and down the Atlantic coast, businesses, communities and bipartisan elected officials are overwhelmingly opposed to seismic airgun blasting,” she said in a prepared statement.

But in the August 22, 2014 edition of “Science Notes,” a newsletter published by the federal government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, an agency representative wrote that in more than 30 years of air gun use, “there has been no documented scientific evidence of the noise […] adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities.”

The newsletter notes that the government requires mitigation measures, including a required distance between surveys and marine mammals and closures for certain species.

New Jersey late last year joined a federal lawsuit with Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Virginia to block offshore seismic testing.

At the time, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-06), who represents a portion of the northern New Jersey shore, blasted the decision.

“An environmentally sound coast is critical to New Jersey’s economy and it is very possible that seismic testing could lead to oil and gas drilling off our coast – threatening public health, coastal communities, and hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he said in a prepared statement.

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