(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson today filed a motion in federal court aimed at blocking planned seismic testing and offshore drilling along the South Carolina coast. The attorney general filed a motion to join a lawsuit against the federal government filed by 16 South Carolina cities and towns and the state Small Business Chamber of Commerce.
“Once again the federal government seeks to intrude upon the sovereignty of the state of South Carolina,” Attorney General Wilson said. “Such action puts our State’s economy, tourism and beautiful natural resources at risk. We are bringing suit to protect the State’s economy and the rule of law.
“We understand the need to have a long-term, reliable energy supply. However, any comprehensive energy strategy must comply with the rule of law. While oil and gas exploration could bring in billions of dollars, doing it without adequate study and precautions could end up costing billions of dollars and cause irreversible damage to our economy and coast.”
According to the motion, “Although a number of coastal municipalities are parties to this suit, the Attorney General represents the interests of the entire State including its agencies that could be affected by the seismic surveying and the general public. No single plaintiff or the present group of plaintiffs represents all of those interests. Therefore, the Attorney General’s ability to protect the interests of the public and State agencies would not be adequately represented by the existing plaintiffs and would be impaired.”
The federal government is planning to use seismic airguns to explore and evaluate thousands of square miles off our coast looking for potential oil and gas reserves beneath the ocean floor. If reserves are found, offshore oil or gas drilling would follow.
Seismic testing could have a huge effect on South Carolina’s tourism economy. The four coastal counties of Horry, Georgetown, Charleston, and Beaufort generate more than $13.5 Billion in tourism spending every year. From 2007 to 2014, the economic value of businesses making use of ocean and coastal waters in the state grew from $37 billion to $44 billion, according to the most recent National Ocean Economic Program report using employment and wage data to track trends. In the same time period, jobs grew from 433,183 to 445,398. Total wages also grew from $14.6 billion to $17.2 billion. This economic growth results from and is reliant on, in large part, a vibrant and healthy marine ecosystem.
The geophysical surveys involve blasting these acoustic pulses at the ocean floor approximately every ten seconds, twenty-four hours a day, for months at a time, producing extreme loud noises which can be audible for hundreds of kilometers and, under certain circumstances, thousands of kilometers from the source.
The lawsuit argues that the seismic testing would harm and could even destroy the coastal fishing industries in South Carolina. It would also irreparably harm marine life and the communities that rely on it. The testing would also violate the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedures Act.
The attorney general and the other plaintiffs are asking that a federal judge issue an injunction to prohibit the seismic airgun surveys, rule that the permission to allow the airgun use violates federal laws, or at the very least not allow the seismic testing to go forward until there has been ordered, received, and evaluated by the Court an objective, comprehensive study of the impact of the testing on South Carolina’s environment and economy.
“We are challenging the legality of the federal government authorizing testing and drilling off South Carolina’s coast. The rule of law must be followed by any Administration,” Attorney General Wilson said.
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