In a unexpected move but necessary move, environmental groups are now suing the Trump administration over offshore drilling tests that will likely harm thousands of marine mammals in the Atlantic Ocean.
The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Charleston, South Carolina, claims that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Marine Mammals Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when five permits were authorized to use seismic air guns to seek out areas for offshore drilling.
Seismic testing maps the ocean floor and estimates if there may be oil and gas, but only exploratory drilling can confirm their presence. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that caused widespread death to the Gulf of Mexico resulted from an exploratory drill.
The future surveys are part of Trump’s plan to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic, a plan that has drawn opposition from most east coast lawmakers and governors as it will likely harm commercial fishing and tourism.
As part of the agreement, survey vessels will be required to have observers on board to listen and watch for marine life and alert operators if a protected species comes within a certain distance, officials said, and acoustic monitoring will be used to detect those swimming beneath the ocean surface and will be shut down if there is possibly a sensitive species observed.
The protection and steps taken to help marine animals are extremely limited and none of the precautions were enough for environmental groups and lawmaker from both democrats and republicans to support the testing. On top of ignoring the wellbeing of marine life, lawmakers are criticizing the timing of the announcement which is shortly after Trump’s administration released a new climate report that he has now famously said he does not believe. Trump has shown time and time again, he will do anything to continue the fossil fuel industry including destroying local economies and ruining endangered species habitats.
According to the federal government’s own assessment, airgun testing has the potential to harm hundreds of thousands of marine animals including dolphins and whales.
“This action is unlawful and we’re going to stop it,” Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana, said in a news release. “The Trump administration’s rash decision to harm marine mammals hundreds of thousands of times in the hope of finding oil and gas is shortsighted and dangerous.”
The groups leading the suits include Oceana, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, Center for Biological Diversity, Surfrider Foundation and the Sierra Club.
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