Congressman LoBiondo Introduces Legislation to Prohibit Seismic Surveys

Trump Likely to Reopen Atlantic Seaboard to Offshore Petroleum Extraction
May 10, 2017
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill In 2015, a Rutgers University-led seismic study off the coast of Long Beach Island – unrelated to oil and gas exploration – was much maligned on the coast, with opposition from many groups including Clean Ocean Action.

Congressmen Frank LoBiondo (N.J.-2nd) and Don Beyer (Va.-8th) have introduced legislation to halt permits for seismic activity on the Atlantic seaboard. Petroleum companies use seismic pulses to identify oil and gas reservoirs beneath the ocean floor, and the representatives believe the practice has significant adverse effects on marine life and, consequently, fisheries commerce.

“The ecological damage and negative economic impact caused by seismic testing is clear, which is why there is near-unanimous opposition from local concerned residents, commercial and recreational fishermen, and environmentalists along the Jersey Shore,” said LoBiondo. “This bipartisan legislation reaffirms my strong opposition to seismic airgun testing in waters off South Jersey.”

According to LoBiondo and Beyer, the acoustic pulses from the airguns can cause hearing damage, stress and other harm to numerous aquatic species, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.

The new bill, the Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection Act, would prohibit not only oil-, gas- and methane hydrate-related seismic activities, but seismic surveys for other purposes as well.

In 2015, a Rutgers University-led seismic study off the coast of Long Beach Island – unrelated to oil and gas exploration – was much maligned on the coast, with opposition from the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, elected officials, fishermen and organizations such as the nonprofit Clean Ocean Action. Gregory Mountain, professor of Earth and planetary science at Rutgers University, though, said following the completion of the strictly scientific study, “There was no evidence of harm,” and, additionally, “commercial and recreational fishing went on around us.”

“We need the information obtained from the research use of airguns to increase our knowledge of the environmental role of Earth processes,” said Lincoln Hollister, emeritus professor of geosciences at Princeton University, the year before the Rutgers survey commenced.

What everyone agrees on is this: No one wants to see oil washing up on the shores.

“The fact is that all seismic studies have similarities,” said Hollister. “Indeed, seismic studies may lead to imaging of structures favorable for oil and gas. But if you don’t want oil and gas developed off shore, the place to stop it is in the exploratory drilling phase. One doesn’t know if a structure contains oil or gas until it is drilled.”

Although President Obama blocked offshore petroleum extraction in the Atlantic, as a press release from the office of LoBiondo states, “That action is reportedly under review by the Trump administration,” which “is likely to reopen permitting.”

According to Nancy Pyne, climate and energy campaign director at Oceana, an international organization focused on oceans, “Along the East Coast, nearly 1.4 million jobs and over $95 billion in GDP rely on healthy ocean ecosystems, mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation. Offshore oil and gas exploration, and the drilling and spilling that follows, puts coastal communities and economies at risk.

“Regardless of who is in the White House, coastal communities remain united in their opposition to offshore drilling activities. ... Instead of pursuing seismic airgun blasting off our coasts, and expanding our dependence on dirty and dangerous offshore drilling, we should rapidly develop clean energy solutions like offshore wind.” —J.K.-H.

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