~ Herring and colleagues claim that federal authorization of seismic testing, a precursor to offshore drilling, violates environmental laws ~
RICHMOND (December 20, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring and a coalition of state attorneys general are moving to intervene in a lawsuit to stop proposed seismic testing that opens the door to oil drilling off the coast of Virginia and other Atlantic Coast states. Attorney General Herring and his colleagues believe that the environmental impact of the testing, including on endangered and threatened species, could result in severe and irreparable harm to coastal and marine resources, including Virginia’s coastal economy.
The pending lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and federal officials was filed last Tuesday in South Carolina by a coalition of local and national non-governmental organizations. In moving to intervene on the side of the organizations, the Attorneys General are seeking to file their own complaint on behalf of their respective states.
“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 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.”
In July 2017, Attorney General Herring wrote to the NMFS urging it deny applications to conduct seismic testing, citing the dangers that seismic testing and offshore drilling could pose to Virginia’s coastal economies and environments.
Despite widespread criticism of the proposed testing from the scientific community and the public, NMFS granted the applications for seismic testing in November 2018. In challenging the authorization, the coalition of attorneys general charges that NMFS’s approval violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Administrative Procedure Act.
Today’s filing is being led by Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and joined by Attorney General Herring and the attorneys general of Delaware, Connecticut, North Carolina, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maine, and New York.