TRENTON – Continuing the fight to prevent offshore drilling in New Jersey, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced today that the State has joined a motion in federal court seeking to block drilling-related seismic testing activity.
On November 30, 2018, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) approved incidental harassment authorizations for five companies – the first step in allowing companies to engage in seismic testing in the Atlantic region despite the harm it causes to marine mammals. Seismic testing is a necessary step before companies can engage in offshore drilling along the eastern coast, because the testing allows companies to search for oil and natural gas along the sea floor.
In response, on December 20, New Jersey and eight other states intervened in a federal lawsuit brought by environmental groups opposed to seismic testing. Now those environmental groups are asking the U.S. District Court in South Carolina to issue a preliminary injunction that would block all movement on seismic testing pending resolution of their lawsuit.
Today, New Jersey and its fellow Plaintiff states – New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Virginia – supported that request for an injunction.
“We’ve said from day one that offshore drilling is bad for New Jersey, and we’re going to fight it every step of the way,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. “We are seeking a court order, effective immediately, to stop the federal government from taking any further actions to allow seismic testing off our coast. We will not sit idly by and allow our pristine coast – and the people who rely on it – to suffer the harms and risks associated with seismic testing and offshore drilling.”
“Seismic testing and offshore drilling are unnecessary for the economy and would only risk harm to New Jersey’s precious natural resources,” said DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe. “I am proud to join Attorney General Grewal to oppose these efforts by the Trump Administration that could endanger New Jersey’s marine biodiversity and our valuable tourism and fishing industries.”
The 2018 lawsuit was filed by the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council, North Carolina Coastal Federation, Oceana, One Hundred Miles, the Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation.
The lawsuit names U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) as defendants. The complaint alleges that their actions violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, and National Environmental Policy Act.
The multi-state brief argues that granting an injunction to block further action on seismic testing is in the public interest. Among other reasons, the memorandum notes that offshore drilling has the potential to inflict “irreparable harm” on marine and coastal resources, and that Congress has “recognized the importance of states’ “views and policy determinations when it comes to management of the Outer Continental Shelf.”
“Congress’ solicitude for states’ policy views” in these matters “confirms that it is appropriate for this Court to exhibit similar solicitude in its public interest analysis,” the memorandum argues. Here, the states along the east coast oppose offshore drilling off their coastlines.
In New Jersey, offshore drilling would endanger public safety, threaten harm to coastal natural resources, and severely undermine the state’s tourism base. New Jersey’s 130-mile coastline generated more than $44 billion in coastal tourism revenue in 2016, supporting more than 838,000 jobs and generating $5.6 billion in federal taxes.