South Carolina Coastal Conservation League v. Ross

The ocean is an acoustic world. Unlike light, sound travels quickly and easily in seawater. Whales, dolphins, and other marine species depend on their hearing to feed, communicate, navigate, search for mates, and raise their young. When loud noises pierce the underwater world, they disrupt all of these vital behaviors, threatening the health and survival of marine species.

On November 30, 2018, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) under the Trump administration issued permits to five oil and gas exploration companies, allowing them to harass and injure hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins while conducting seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean from Delaware to Florida. Seismic surveys search for potential oil and gas deposits under the ocean floor by firing dozens of pressurized airguns simultaneously underwater, as often as every 10 seconds, for months at a time. If these surveys are allowed to go forward, they will harm dozens of marine mammal species, including the North Atlantic right whale—an iconic, critically endangered species fighting to survive as its numbers dwindle.

Together with our allies, NRDC is challenging the Trump administration’s unlawful action. We have filed a lawsuit in district court in Charleston, South Carolina, where we have combined forces with more than a dozen local municipalities to hold the federal government to its legal responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the National Environmental Protection Act. Ten coastal states, stretching from Maine to South Carolina, have sought to join us in our fight to protect coastal communities and wildlife.

In order for seismic ships to begin blasting, they must receive one additional permit from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). During the December 2018–January 2019 partial government shutdown, the Trump administration tried to fast-track the process. Fortunately, the district court judge ordered BOEM to stop work on those permits until the federal government reopened and the court could rule on pending motions. 

NRDC and our partners are urging the court to block seismic blasting in the Atlantic until the case can be fully heard.

Last Updated

February 20, 2019



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