Virginia signs on to lawsuit challenging seismic testing decision

Virginia has signed on to a lawsuit with eight other states and several environmental groups to fight President Donald Trump’s decision to open the East Coast up to seismic airgun testing, according to The Baltimore Sun.

The testing is a precursor to offshore oil drilling. Before drilling can begin, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has to issue permits for the activity and its final leasing plan, which environmental groups expect soon.

Seismic testing and offshore drilling could impact key industries along the Virginia coast, like fishing and tourism, environmental advocates have said.

The lawsuit was originally filed last week in South Carolina by a coalition of groups including Oceana, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation.

It said the National Marine Fisheries Service violated laws protecting marine mammals and endangered species as well as the National Environmental Policy Act by allowing oil companies to harm some sea animals during air gun testing. Testing blasts noise as loud as a jet taking off to the ocean floor to identify where oil and gas could be.

“The Commonwealth of Virginia and our coastal communities have made it clear time and again that we aren’t interested in offshore drilling that could threaten our coastal environment and economy just so a few oil and gas companies can make a few more bucks,” said Attorney General Mark Herring.

“An oil spill could jeopardize the health and economic viability of the Chesapeake Bay and tourism, fishing, and military operations in Hampton Roads. We will continue to make our objections clear and use the tools at our disposal to prevent risky drilling off Virginia’s coast.”

“Today’s announcement sends a clear message to President Trump that coastal states are united against harmful seismic airgun blasting for offshore drilling,” said Diane Hoskins, Oceana’s campaign director.

“These attorneys general are standing up for their states, their way of life and their coastal economies. Putting our oceans, marine life and coastal economies at risk for dirty and dangerous offshore drilling is wrong and we are not backing down. Seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic defies law, science and common sense. They acted unlawfully and we’re going to stop it.”