CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, in a letter signed by more than two dozen other House members, is asking the federal government to halt permitting activities for seismic testing for offshore natural gas and oil.
The letter, written with Virginia U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, was sent Thursday to Abigail Ross Hopper, the director of the federal Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management.
It calls on the agency to prepare new environmental reviews of the impacts of using seismic air guns to explore off the coast.
The letter, also signed by North Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones and Democratic U.S. Rep. David Price as well as 27 other House members, said that current studies don't take into account the long-term economic and ecological impacts.
Sanford, a Republican, Jones and Price were the only members of the congressional delegations in the Carolinas calling for a moratorium.
The Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management is reviewing if and where oil and gas leases might be issued on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf between 2017 and 2022.
The letter said using seismic air guns which bounce sound waves off the ocean floor to explore for fossil fuels "is an enormously disruptive activity in the ocean" and can impact commercial fish catches and disrupt the feeding and breeding behaviors of endangered right whales.
The letter also noted that information about what is found by energy companies won't be shared with the states so states can't make a reasonable analysis of the benefits and risks posed by offshore drilling.
Opponents of offshore drilling say the industry could cause spills that would threaten the tourism economy in the two states. Supporters of developing offshore energy say it can be done safely and will mean additional tax revenue and jobs.