Environmental groups will join 16 SC cities to sue over offshore drilling tests

Nine conservation groups and 16 South Carolina coastal communities are expected to sue the Trump administration Tuesday to stop leases to explore for natural gas and oil offshore. The 16 municipalities are Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, Edisto Island, Seabrook Island, Kiawah Island, James Island, Beaufort, Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Port Royal, Awendaw, Pawleys Island, Briarcliffe Acres and North Myrtle Beach. Also part of the litigation is the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

Tracts off South Carolina are among the waters up for grabs. The groups said they will file two separate lawsuits, both in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

The lawsuits will claim the leases violate the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits harassing or killing animals such as whales or dolphins.

The exploration would include seismic blast testing that involves loud airguns considered harmful to marine mammals and other sea life.

“Ignoring the mounting opposition to offshore drilling, the decision to push forward with unnecessary seismic testing violates the law, let alone common sense,” said Charleston-based attorney Catherine Wannamaker, with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

“An overwhelming number of communities, businesses and elected officials have made it clear that seismic blasting — a precursor to drilling that nobody wants — has no place off our coasts,” she said.

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