MURRELLS INLET – State Rep. Lee Hewitt, R-Georgetown, applauded the S.C. Dept. of Health and Environmental Control decision Monday to reject a federal permit application to conduct seismic testing for oil off the coast of South Carolina.
“SCDHEC made the right decision. Seismic testing is not in any way consistent with our state’s coastal management plan,” Hewitt said. “Seismic air gun blasts are harmful to marine life and would hurt fisheries that are very important to my constituents and the coastal economy.”
SCDHEC said in its letter to WesternGeco, LLC, the company seeking the federal permit, “DHEC finds that the risks associated with 2D seismic surveying to the resources under the purview of the SCCZMP are significant due to the known and unknown physiological and behavioral impacts to individual fish and sea turtles, populations and the ecosystems that support them... DHEC must find the federal application for seismic surveying in the Atlantic OCS by WesternGeco to be inconsistent with the enforceable policies of the South Carolina Coastal Zone Management Program.”
According to the SCDHEC letter public opposition to the permit was unanimous, stating that “all 1,720 comments received, communicated opposition to the specific proposed activity of seismic surveying and/or potential future offshore oil and gas development generally.”
In a June letter to SCDHEC asking for rejection of the permit application Hewitt said “I’ve heard loud and clear from constituents that they do not want seismic testing or oil and gas drilling off our coast because of the detrimental effects of seismic air gun blasts to marine life and the very real threat of a drilling disaster and the resulting severe environmental and economic harm it would bring to our area.”
WesternGeco, LLC applied to the US Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for a federal permit to conduct seismic testing in the federal waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
The federal permit application was submitted to SCDHEC for determination of federal consistency with the SC Coastal Management Program concerning the potential impacts of the seismic testing on sea turtles and on commercial and recreational fisheries.
WesternGeco may appeal SCDHEC’s determination to the federal Secretary of Commerce. An appeal must be filed by within 30 days of SCDHEC’s decision.
Hewitt, a Murrells Inlet resident and Realtor, represents District 108, which consists of the coastal areas of Georgetown and Charleston counties. He serves on the House Agricultural, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs and Legislative Oversight committees.