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City leaders along the Grand Strand join lawsuit to stop seismic testing

Drilling in the Atlantic/WPDE

Federal lawmakers are considering offshore drilling off the coast of South Carolina, but not everyone is in favor of recent authorizations to move forward with seismic oil and gas exploration off the coast.

The organization Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic or "SODA" is working to educate the public on the impacts seismic testing and offshore drilling could have on the environment and local economy. They met on Wednesday night in Pawleys Island for their presentation.

"The best thing we could do is to leave the coast of South Carolina as well as the entire east coast alone," said Pawleys Island Mayor James Braswell.

RELATED: President Trump approves seismic testing off Carolina coast

From Delaware to Florida, the National Marine Fisheries Service recently authorized seismic air-gun testing in coastal waters.

Many municipality leaders said they are now concerned.

"I just think it's somewhat foolish on our government's part to pretty much ruin an area that one we don't know if any oil is out there," said Braswell.

President Trump supports seismic air-gun blasting and issued an executive order back in April of 2017 to expedite it. This is why environmentalists are taking action.

"There were two lawsuits that were filed yesterday: one that we filed on the behalf of the municipalities, the other lawsuit was filed by a coalition of environmental groups from around the east coast," said South Carolina Environmental Law Project Attorney Amy Armstrong.

Armstrong said seismic testing off the coast could be costly.

"If you conduct these seismic testing activities in areas where commercial fishermen go, or recreational fishermen go, or ecotourism boats go or any of those real tourism dependent activities and you're driving fish out of the area, then there are going to be less fish to harvest so it will hurt those businesses that do, that actually catch the fish, that wholesale the fish, that retail the fish our restaurants," said Armstrong.

RELATED: Seismic testing approved, moving South Carolina towards offshore drilling

With so much at stake, Armstrong said this could be the beginning to the end of coastal Carolina as we know it.

"It's never really been a clear and present danger to South Carolina's coast as it is right now, right here, today," said Armstrong.

The authorization for seismic testing was approved on Nov. 30, but a permit is still needed to move forward, which the federal government announced could come in early 2019.

Sixteen municipalities in South Carolina have joined the lawsuit filed by the South Carolina environmental law project, including Pawleys Island and North Myrtle Beach.

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