Attorneys general from nine U.S. states sued the Trump administration on Dec. 20 to stop future seismic tests for oil and gasdeposits off the East Coast, joining a lawsuit from environmentalists concerned the tests harm whales and dolphins.
The lawsuit, which names Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the National Marine Fisheries Service as defendants, says the prospect of seeing marine mammals is an important draw for tourists to the states and helps coastal economies.
The Department of Commerce declined to comment.
Last month the fisheries office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, part of the Commerce Department, issued permits to WesternGeco LLC, a subsidiary of Schlumberger Ltd, and CGG to harass, but not kill, marine mammals with air gun blasts in a region of the Atlantic from Delaware to Cape Canaveral, Fla..
Jennie Lyons, a spokeswoman at the fisheries office declined to comment on the lawsuit but said the department only authorized harrasment, not outight killing, of the marine animals in issuing the permits. A marine biologist at the office told reporters last month that no seismic tests have been known to cause whale beachings.
The permits, part of President Donald Trump's "energy dominance" agenda to boost oil output for U.S. consumption and for exports, also went to ION GeoVentures, Spectrum Geo Inc and TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company.
The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The other attorneys general are from Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia. They joined a suit by conservationists filed earlier this month by groups including the Coastal Conservation League, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Oceana.
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