East Coast states sue to challenge Trump’s offshore oil move

Nine states along the East Coast have joined a lawsuit challenging a key move by the Trump administration that could allow offshore oil and natural gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

The states’ Democratic attorneys general are objecting both to the possible harm to marine life from the administration-approved seismic testing and to the potential offshore drilling that could result from the testing.

The states filed a motion to join a lawsuit environmental groups filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Seismic testing will have dangerous consequences for hundreds of thousands of marine mammals, including endangered species,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D), who is leading the multistate effort, said in a statement Thursday.

“While the administration continues to place the interests of the fossil fuel industry ahead of our precious natural resources, attorneys general up and down the Atlantic coast will continue to fight these and other efforts to open the waters off our shores to drilling for oil and gas.”

Frosh announced his lawsuit at Baltimore’s National Aquarium in an effort to highlight what he says would be the damage to marine life from both the testing and any drilling.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) similarly went to Boston’s New England Aquarium to highlight the effort.

“Approving these blasting tests paves the way for the Trump administration to open up the Atlantic coast to drilling and poses a severe threat to our coastal communities, our fishing industry, and the health of the ocean,” she said.

“Today we are suing to stop this reckless plan that allows the oil and gas industry to destroy fishing families, local businesses, and marine life.”

Other states joining Maryland and Massachusetts in the effort are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Virginia.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, a unit of the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, authorized five companies this month to potentially harm marine mammals when they conduct airgun testing to determine oil and gas potential in the sea floor of the Atlantic.

The authorizations did not give the companies the ability to do the actual testing; that is a separate permit the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would have to give.

The oil industry supports the testing approvals and says that it is necessary to update decades-old geological findings with better technology. They also point to previous government findings that marine mammals have never been harmed by seismic testing.

The Trump administration has proposed to open the entire Atlantic coast, along with the Pacific coast and all around Alaska, to drilling. If drilling is allowed along the Atlantic coast, it would be the first time since the 1980s.

But the attorneys general filing the lawsuit, along with the governors of nearly all East Coast states, oppose offshore drilling near their coasts and have vowed to take whatever efforts are necessary to stop it.