June 18, 2018

Gillibrand Calls On Trump Administration To Reject Atlantic Seismic Testing Permits In The Atlantic Ocean To Protect Environment, Marine Ecosystems and Mammals

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand wrote to Dr. Walter Cruickshank, Acting Director of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and Chris Oliver, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), calling on them to reject the requests for permits to conduct seismic surveys in the Atlantic for oil and gas exploration. Seismic testing is a tool used by the oil and gas industry to help determine locations for drilling. These tests are loud and disruptive to marine ecosystems and fisheries, and have the potential to harm marine mammals like the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale. Offshore drilling could have dire consequences for coastal economies in New York, including the fishing and tourism industries. Introducing the potential for an oil spill in the Atlantic also poses an unacceptable risk to the health and welfare of New Yorkers.

“I am writing to urge you to reject the authorizations and permits requested of your agencies to allow for the use of seismic airgun surveys for oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean,” wrote Senator Gillibrand. “Opening up the Atlantic to this harmful and nuisance-causing testing in order to support the exploration for oil and gas, which we on the coast do not want and do not need, should not be approved by your agencies. This activity runs counter to the Federal government’s responsibility to be a good steward of our nation’s ocean resources and their habitat.”

“Seismic blasting is a knockout punch to ocean life. It harms everything in the ocean including marine mammals, turtles, fish, shellfish and even plankton. Fewer than 500 Right Whales are alive today, and the proposed region for air-gun surveys coincides with the main range for these surviving numbers.   We should be crafting plans to protect ocean life not planning to destroy it. CCE applauds Senator Gillibrand’s leadership of rejecting the requested authorizations and permits currently under review.  Seismic airgun blasting would to be detrimental to local fisheries and shellfisheries, crippling the industry’s economy as thousands of jobs would be lost in the aftermath of the oceanic disruptions.  This insidious plan must be stopped,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment

The full text of the Senator’s letter is available here and below:

Dr. Walter Cruickshank

Acting Director

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

U.S. Department of the Interior

1849 C Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20240

Mr. Chris Oliver

Assistant Administrator for Fisheries

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

1315 East-West Highway

Silver Spring, MD 20910

Dear Dr. Cruickshank & Mr. Oliver,

I am writing to urge you to reject the authorizations and permits requested of your agencies to allow for the use of seismic airgun surveys for oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. Specifically, I urge the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reject requested incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs) to take marine mammals incidental to conducting geophysical survey activity in the Atlantic Ocean and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to reject the Geological and Geophysical permits in the Atlantic currently under review.

The IHAs and Geological and Geophysical permits have been requested for the purposes of using seismic airgun arrays to support oil and gas exploration, which is strongly opposed by the majority of states along the Atlantic coast because of the significant potential for harm to the environment and coastal economies from oil and gas drilling.

The noise created by the use of seismic airgun arrays poses a substantial risk to marine ecosystems and the whales, fish and other aquatic species that live in the Atlantic. The proposed locations for the seismic surveys are in close proximity to critical habitat for the North Atlantic Right Whale. Introducing the use of airguns in this area could have a devastating impact on that endangered species, which is already suffering from a significant decline in population and is threatened by the possibility of extinction. According to the NOAA Fisheries, noise poses a threat to this species. The introduction of a new source of noise that could impair the recovery of this species should be rejected.

There are also concerns about the impact of seismic airgun blasting on fisheries, which are relied on to support coastal economies and the commercial and recreational fishing industries that contribute billions of dollars to the economy and support hundreds of thousands of jobs. The disruption to these fisheries resulting from seismic surveys could result in long-term harm to an already fragile industry. In addition to its importance to the local economies and industries of New York State, protecting the Atlantic from environmental degradation and ecological damage is essential to the health and welfare of my constituents.

Opening up the Atlantic to this harmful and nuisance-causing testing in order to support the exploration for oil and gas, which we on the coast do not want and do not need, should not be approved by your agency. This activity runs counter to the mission of your agency to be good stewards of our nation’s ocean resources and their habitat. In addition, it is clear that the affected states along our coast do not support this activity. Offshore drilling in the Atlantic is opposed by the Republican and Democratic Governors of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. It is rare that all of these states would agree on energy and environmental policy, however, each recognizes that high stakes for the industries that rely on our proximity to the Atlantic, including tourism and fishing. 

I hope that you will carefully consider these concerns, and that your agencies will disapprove of the requested IHAs and permits for the Atlantic Ocean. Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,