Dec. 21–Massachusetts, through its Attorney General Maura Healey, is joining a multi-state federal lawsuit to halt the federal government from planned seismic testing to identify offshore oil and gas resources in the Atlantic Ocean.
On Thursday, Healey announced Massachusetts’s inclusion in the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in South Carolina and named Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and NOAA Fisheries as defendants.
NOAA Fisheries recently approved the applications of five companies to conduct the seismic testing along the mid Atlantic and south Atlantic coastlines, inflaming conservationists and fishing stakeholders who insist the testing is harmful to all manner of marine life and habitat.
“Approving these blasting tests paves the way for the Trump administration to open up the Atlantic coast to drilling and poses a severe threat to our coastal communities, our fishing industry and the health of the ocean,” Healey said. “Today we are suing to stop this reckless plan that allows the oil and gas industry to destroy fishing families, local businesses and marine life.
Healey made the announcement of the state’s inclusion in the lawsuit at a Thursday morning event at the New England Aquarium that included Angela Sanfilippo of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association.
“We are very disappointed to learn that the Trump administration has taken steps to allow seismic air gun blasting in the Atlantic,” Sanfilippo said. “Fishermen have made great sacrifices to protect fish stocks and here we go with something that will harm the marine habitat and the marine environment. We as fish people know that these activities are harmful to fish, marine mammals and humans.”
Last week, NOAA reported the volume of landings at America’s oldest seaport rose 1 million pounds, or 1.5 percent, from the previous year to 64 million pounds. The value of those landings grew by $1 million, or 1.9 percent, to $53 million from $52 million in 2016. Based on those numbers, Gloucester ranked 23rd in 2017 among U.S. commercial ports in the value of landings and 20th in volume. In 2016, Gloucester ranked 18th in value and 15th in volume.
New Bedford was named the nation’s highest grossing fishing port for the 18th consecutive year in the same report.
“Our port now supports nearly 7,000 jobs and contributes $10 billion to the Massachusetts economy,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said. “The Interior Department is placing all of this success at grave long-term risk. The effort to pursue a drilling program off the U.S. East Coast is ill-conceived and creates the possibility of an ecological disaster for the fisheries that the commercial fishing industry depends on for its viability.”
Massachusetts, through Healey, joins Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Virginia as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.
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