New Orleans, LA
Public interest law firm Earthjustice has joined a lawsuit against the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement to challenge its approval of seismic surveys that are known to harm marine life in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and the Gulf Restoration Network had filed the lawsuit on June 30 to challenge BOE (formerly known as the Minerals Management Service) to conduct thorough environmental analyses before permitting these gas and oil exploration activities. Earthjustice entered the challenge and is representing the Gulf Restoration Network.
“We are challenging these surveys because they run the risk of adversely affecting key animals in the ocean ecosystem,” said Steve Roady, Earthjustice attorney. “The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is only the latest in a number of environmental assaults on these animals and we’re hoping to ensure that the government adequately analyzes the impacts of further exploration and development.”
Seismic surveys are used to help locate regions for oil and gas development and generate very high sound levels in the ocean. This sound can travel literally thousands of miles underwater and impact marine mammals and fish – whales and dolphins in particular – who rely on sound for virtually every life function. Numerous scientific studies found that excessive noise in the ocean is a significant and growing problem for marine ecosystems. BOE’s failure to conduct environmental analyses violates the National Environmental Policy Act.
There are as many as five regional seismic surveys conducted at any one time and more than 30 surveys conducted annually in the Gulf of Mexico. The surveys cover large areas and often are conducted 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The lawsuit calls on BOE to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement before granting permits for seismic surveys. It also, as required by NEPA, asks BOE to evaluate the cumulative effects of the seismic surveys that are currently taking place. Finally, it asks BOE to prepare additional environmental analyses when new information related to the environmental impact of seismic surveys becomes available.