BEAUFORT, SC (WTOC) - There is more controversy surrounding the prospect of offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. The National Marine Fisheries Services issued permits last week allowing companies to test for oil or gas along the coastline with air guns.
Coastal communities in South Carolina took a stand against it though - filing a lawsuit to stop it. The South Carolina Environmental Law Project filed the lawsuit on behalf of 16 coastal communities in South Carolina. With the permits, companies can now perform seismic blasting to see if there is oil and gas beneath the ocean floor. That blasting would happen from Cape May, New Jersey to Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Several national, state, and local leaders in the Lowcountry came together in support of this lawsuit. They say seismic blasting disrupts marine life. Newly-elected 1st district Congressman Joe Cunningham has vowed to fight offshore drilling. Tuesday, city leaders of Beaufort, Hilton Head, and Port Royal voiced their support for the lawsuit and the fight against offshore drilling.
They said they were waiting months for these permits to be issued so they could act.
"Last week, they filed them, and we were ready to go to court. I would say of the 16 mayors, we will do anything and everything it takes to stop this,” said Beaufort mayor Billy Keyserling.
"I’m here to convey the strong sentiment and condemnation of offshore drilling off our shores,” added Hilton Head Ward 3 councilmember David Ames.
Congressman Buddy Carter, who represents coastal Georgia, disputed their facts. He said previous administrations agreed that seismic testing did not disrupt marine life.
He supports the exploration for oil or gas beneath the ocean floor. He has not taken a stance on offshore drilling.
“If we do the exploration and we find out there is something out there, we cross that bridge when we get there as to whether we act on it or not,” said Carter. “To at least not know and have an inventory of what’s out there, I think is irresponsible.”
Congressman Carter said we’re still years, maybe even decades, from possible offshore drilling with how long the permit process takes. That also depends on if there are, in fact, places to drill.