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Pallone and Environmental Leaders Stand Against Trump Plans for Seismic Testing off New Jersey’s Coas

February 12, 2018
Press Release

 

Long Branch, N.J. – On Monday February 12, at Clean Ocean Action headquarters, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. and environmental leaders stood together to oppose the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) consideration of permits to allow seismic testing off the Jersey Shore. Six companies that were denied Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) permits during the Obama Administration are currently seeking permits from the Trump Administration, and a decision from NMFS regarding whether to issue those permits is expected soon.  If the IHA permits are denied, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) can’t issue seismic testing permits. 

Last month President Trump announced a sweeping offshore drilling plan that would allow drilling along the coast of New Jersey, to which Pallone also voiced his strong opposition.

“This proposal is a radical departure from the Obama Administration’s reasonable, science-based approach that took into consideration the views of communities along the coast,” said Pallone. “The only stakeholders influencing ocean policy in the Trump Administration seem to be oil and gas executives. I will continue to stand alongside my friends and neighbors in New Jersey against this Administration’s backwards drilling agenda, and do all that I can to defend our towns, our businesses, our people, and our way of life from irreparable harm.”

Seismic testing involves the use of large, seismic airguns that fire loud blasts of air at the ocean floor. The soundwaves produced by these blasts are reflected back to the surface, and measured to determine whether oil, gas, or other minerals are present under the ocean.  This can disrupt migratory patterns, cause marine wildlife to abandon important habitats, disrupt mating and feeding, destroy fish eggs and larvae, and cause deafness in whales and dolphins rendering them unable to communicate and reproduce.  It is also an obvious precursor to offshore oil and gas drilling.

Congressman Pallone today also sent a letter today to the Director of NMFS voicing his strong opposition to seismic testing.

 

February 12, 2018

 

 

Donna Wieting

Director

Office of Protected Resources

National Marine Fisheries Service

1315 East-West Highway                                                                 

Silver Spring, MD 20910

 

Dear Ms. Wieting:

I write in regards to the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) proposal to issue Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) permits to conduct geologic and geophysical activities (i.e. seismic testing) in the Atlantic Ocean.  When coupled with the Interior Department’s proposal to open up essentially all U.S. waters to offshore drilling, these proposals represent a grave risk to coastal communities, both environmentally and economically.

As you know, the companies to which NMFS proposes to grant IHA permits are currently seeking permits from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to conduct seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.  BOEM cannot issue these permits unless NMFS approves these IHA applications. BOEM had originally rejected these applications during the Obama Administration, citing the potential for seismic testing to have significant, detrimental impacts on marine life.

If the applications are approved by both NMFS and BOEM, these companies would be allowed to conduct widespread seismic testing in areas inhabited by both commercially important fisheries and endangered species.  Seismic testing can disrupt migratory patterns, cause marine wildlife to abandon important habitats, and disrupt mating and feeding.  The soundwave blasts can also destroy fish eggs and larvae.  These tests can also cause deafness in whales and dolphins, both of which rely on hearing to reproduce, locate food, and communicate.  At least a dozen federally recognized endangered species – including right, fin, blue, humpback, sei, and sperm wales; short-nosed and Atlantic sturgeon; and hawksbill, leatherback, green, and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles – live in the region that would be impacted by seismic testing.

The potential damage to marine life by seismic testing is deeply concerning to coastal communities in New Jersey, and all along the Atlantic seaboard. In fact, the Interior Department’s proposal to vastly expand the scope of offshore drilling has met widespread, bipartisan opposition. More than 150 municipalities on the East Coast, West Coast, and Gulf of Mexico have passed resolutions opposing offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration. The New England, Mid-Atlantic, and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, the Department of Defense, Air Force, Florida Defense Support Task Force, and NASA have all weighed in expressing serious concerns or opposition to offshore exploration and drilling. More than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families have also joined this overwhelming chorus of voices.

Put simply, the federal government should listen to the coastal communities that will suffer from the impacts of seismic testing, and potential future off-shore drilling, not the corporate entities that are looking to turn a profit, regardless of the cost. NMFS should reject these IHA applications.  I thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

FRANK PALLONE, JR.           

Member of Congress

 

cc: Dr. Walter Cruickshank, Acting Director, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management