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For Immediate Release, September 24, 2020

Contact: Kristen Monsell, Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, (914) 806-3467, kristenmonsell@centeractionfund.org

Federal Filing: Trump Order Doesn’t Stop Atlantic Oil Exploration

WASHINGTON— The oil industry can use seismic testing to hunt for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean near South Carolina and Florida, despite President Trump’s recent order on offshore oil leasing in the area, according a legal document filed this week by the U.S. Department of Justice.

In an apparent effort to help embattled Republican candidates, Trump announced earlier this month that drilling would be barred off Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, but allowed elsewhere on the Atlantic coast. North Carolina will apparently be added to the moratorium, according to Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). Trump’s order reversed the administration’s own previous effort to open these areas — and every other coastal zone in the United States — to offshore drilling

But the new document shows that Trump’s actions don’t halt efforts by companies to conduct seismic testing for oil in the Atlantic. The federal filing came as part of a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s approval of the testing.

“If Trump were remotely serious about protecting Florida and the Carolinas from offshore drilling, he wouldn’t be allowing oil exploration along the coast,” said Kristen Monsell, with the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund. “This Justice Department filing underscores the appalling emptiness of Trump’s election-year effort to hoodwink voters. Seismic testing’s sonic blasts harm whales and other marine life, and they set the stage for future drilling and devastating oil spills.” 

The seismic testing mentioned in the Justice Department filing could inflict millions of high-volume airgun blasts on dolphins, whales and other animals. Seismic airguns create one of the loudest sources of noise in the oceans, and they can inflict deafness and other harms on a wide array of marine animals. The National Marine Fisheries Service authorized one company to harass more than 40,000 dolphins and another company to harm 20,000 more.

The blasts could irreparably harm the small population of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. Blasting will occur around on the world’s densest population of acoustically sensitive beaked whales off North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Conservation groups, 16 South Carolina coastal communities and the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce have sued to stop the testing.

“The new filing is perfectly consistent with a scenario in which Trump reverses course yet again and opens every part of the Atlantic Ocean to offshore drilling,” Monsell said.

The Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund is a national nonprofit organization that advocates for legislation and legislators that will advance a progressive environmental agenda. The Center Action Fund is the 501(c)(4) affiliate of the Center for Biological Diversity, but these organizations’ names are not interchangeable. This news release is from the Center Action Fund, not the Center for Biological Diversity.