A group of conservation organizations on Tuesday moved to intervene in an appeal by the oil and gas industry that challenges the federal rejection of six Atlantic Ocean offshore exploration permits.
The legal motion was made by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the North Carolina Coastal Federation, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, One Hundred Miles and Defenders of Wildlife.
The permits being challenged by the oil and gas industry were originally rejected by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management because of the “small, critically endangered, and declining population” of North Atlantic right whales.
The environmental advocacy groups said that the remaining population of right whales would be disturbed by seismic activity. Recent surveys have estimated the species’ remaining population to be 476 individual whales.
“Seismic blasts are so loud they can injure endangered right whales and other marine mammals. We’ve been working to save right whales from extinction, and we’re intervening in this appeal to ensure the safety of these rare whales from oil and gas exploration,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
The legal intervention comes on the heels of President Trump issuing an executive order on Friday asking the Department of the Interior to review restrictions on 2017-2022 offshore oil and gas leasing plans. Such reviews could possibly open portions of the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans to offshore drilling.
To survey the ocean for offshore oil and gas facilities, high-powered airguns are used for seismic exploration. The sounds they release are among the loudest human sounds in the ocean, and have been linked to disturbances to marine mammals.
The advocacy groups are represented by attorneys from NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Southern Environmental Law Center.