Nine states are intervening in a lawsuit against the Trump administration for approving oil and gas companies to search for oil and gas deposits in the Atlantic Ocean.
Maryland attorney general Brian Frosh announced Thursday that the states would join environmental groups in a lawsuit to prevent the Trump administration from allowing seismic testing off the coast of South Carolina.
“The National Marine Fisheries Service has issued what are called incidental harassment authorizations. It would, by their own terms, result in harm to hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins and porpoises,” Frosh said. “The permits eliminate a major obstacle to testing and we content that the authorizations are illegal.”
Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Virginia accompanied Maryland in intervening in the lawsuit.
The NMFS, an agency under the Commerce Department, issued “incidental take” permits Nov. 30 allowing oil and gas companies to conduct the tests. Environmental groups sued the federal government Nov. 11 to prevent the seismic testing, which involves air guns booming in the ocean seconds apart for days at a time.
Environmentalists contend the permits violate the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Marine Mammals Protection Act and other regulations. The federal government also “cooked the numbers” of marine life that would be hurt by the air guns to justify the permits, Frosh claimed.
Oil producers backed the Trump administration move that could potentially increase oil and gas production in the Atlantic. The American Petroleum Institute (API) released a report Nov. 15 that found that North Carolina stood to make roughly $1.6 billion in added tax revenue from expanded offshore oil and gas drilling off its coast.
“These revenues could be used to alleviate the burden of property taxes, offset college tuition increases, and rebuild state infrastructure,” South Carolina Petroleum Council executive director Mark Harmon said in a statement announcing the study. “The additional tax revenues that could be available to South Carolina as outlined in this new study are critical for helping to improve quality of life for South Carolina’s residents.”
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