The Obama Administration moved last week to ban seismic testing for oil and gas development off the U.S. Atlantic coast, just a few weeks after it protected 3.8 million miles of underwater canyon from oil and gas leasing.
“Seismic blasting is not only the gateway drug to offshore oil and gas development, but it also has enormous environmental harm in itself,” said Michael Jasny, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project and Land and Wildlife Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“It’s known to disrupt mammal behaviour like foraging and nursing, and compromise fishing by disrupting fish populations over very large areas of ocean. To have proceeded with this folly would have been inimical to the health of our oceans and the communities that depend on them, and irreconcilable with the clean energy future.”
“We know that seismic airgun blasting is dangerous,” agreed Oceana campaign director Claire Douglass. “With offshore drilling off the table for the near future, there was absolutely no reason to risk the damage that would be caused by seismic airgun blasting in the region.”
Seismic testing “involves blasting the seafloor with airguns to search for oil,” ThinkProgress explains. “It’s an extremely loud process that can cause hearing loss in marine mammals and disturb crucial feeding and breeding behaviours,” and can be audible up to 2,500 miles from the source. The six permits would have opened up testing along a swath of ocean from the New Jersey-Delaware border to the middle of Florida.
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) made allowance for oil and gas drilling off the southeast Atlantic coast in 2010, when it released its draft five-year plan for 2017 to 2022. But “the proposed plan was met with staunch community opposition,” ThinkProgress notes. “According to Oceana, as of today, more than 120 East Coast municipalities, 1,200 elected officials, and an alliance representing more than 35,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families have publicly opposed either offshore drilling, seismic airgun blasting, or both.”