A battle by coastal communities, including the Town of Pawleys Island, to fight oil and gas exploration off the South Carolina coast is headed to court.
The S.C. Environmental Law Project filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday in federal court in Charleston in an attempt to stop the Trump administration from implementing seismic testing along the coast.
Amy Armstrong, executive director and lead counsel for the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, said the lawsuit is on behalf of coastal communities and the Small Business Chamber of Commerce.
“Hundreds of thousands of marine species can be harmed or killed, negatively impacting fishing and ecotourism,” Armstrong said. She added that harm to marine life will affect local seafood retailers such as Murrells Inlet Seafood in Murrells Inlet and Independent Seafood in Georgetown.
She said municipalities joining the lawsuit are Awendaw, Beaufort, Bluffton, Briarcliffe Acres, Charleston, Edisto Beach, Folly Beach, Hilton Head, Isle of Palms, Kiawah Island, Mount Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach, Port Royal, Seabrook Island and the Town of Pawleys Island.
On Nov. 30, the federal government advanced testing permits for five companies to survey the ocean floor for potential oil and gas deposits. The lawsuit claims the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued the permits.
Pawleys Island Mayor Jimmy Braswell said the state can't afford to allow offshore drilling.
“Anything we can do to stop offshore drilling; seismic testing, we’re going to do it,” he said. “We’re putting in jeopardy the largest industry this state has.”
On Tuesday morning several organizations opposing offshore drilling rallied at the federal building in Charleston. The groups included Don’t Drill SC, Oceana South Carolina, the Coastal Conservation League and 100 Miles — a nonprofit coastal advocacy organization with a mission of protecting, preserving, and enhancing the 100-mile Georgia coast.
The grassroots group SODA has scheduled a pair of meetings for today, Dec. 12, to update people about the potential effects of seismic testing and drilling. The meetings are set for 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Waccamaw Neck library. At 4:30 p.m. the group will show “Sonic Sea” an hour-long documentary detailing the effects of seismic testing noise on marine life.