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Pallone Continues Fight Against Efforts to Allow Seismic Testing in Atlantic Ocean

June 30, 2016
Press Release

Washington D.C.- Today Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ-06) and six bipartisan colleagues in the New Jersey Congressional delegation sent a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) raising serious concerns over proposed seismic testing off the coast of New Jersey. The members demanded comprehensive environmental assessments of the proposed seismic testing permits and the impact this testing could have on wildlife in the Atlantic Ocean. Representatives Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9), Albio Sires (NJ-8), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Donald Norcross (NJ-1) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) also signed the letter.

“Seismic testing risks injuring and disturbing critically endangered species and threatening the Jersey shore, a center of recreational and economic use.  Any proposal to conduct seismic surveying in the Atlantic Ocean must be reviewed with the utmost care and diligence,” said Pallone. “An environmentally sound coast is critical to New Jersey’s economy, and I remain concerned about efforts that could lead to oil and gas drilling off our coast”

The letter asks that BOEM and NOAA fisheries conduct site-specific Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) for pending seismic testing applications. Last month, Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) sent a letter to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries requesting a public hearing on proposed seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean that could potentially be used to open the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration. Pallone also asked that NOAA Fisheries deny the pending applications for seismic testing.

Pallone worked relentlessly to remove drilling in the Atlantic from the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

In March 2016, the Department of the Interior announced that it had removed the Atlantic from the proposal.

Text of the letter can be found below:

 


Abigail Hopper
Director
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

Dear Director Hopper:

We write in regards to pending applications before the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to conduct seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.  We are deeply concerned about the prospect of seismic testing happening in the Atlantic and the damage such testing could cause to our coastal communities, both environmentally and economically.  We are respectfully requesting that BOEM produce comprehensive, site-specific Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) for these applications, engage in formal consultation with NOAA Fisheries to examine the impact of seismic testing on Essential Fish Habitats and fisheries in the Atlantic, and hold both a public comment period and a public hearing to allow fisheries management councils and the public to share their own data and experiences for the record. 

As you know, BOEM is reviewing several applications to allow seismic testing in the Atlantic.  Seismic testing involves using large, seismic airguns, towed behind ships, to fire loud blasts of air at the ocean floor as frequently as once every 10 seconds.  Those blasts can disrupt migratory patterns, cause marine wildlife to abandon important habitats, disrupt mating and feeding, and even destroy fish eggs and larvae. 

If BOEM approves these applications, fishermen and coastal communities in New Jersey and all along the Eastern seaboard could suffer substantial economic losses.  Even seismic testing limited to the Mid- and South Atlantic Planning Areas could hurt fisheries and other marine wildlife that are important to New Jersey. 

We have already seen the Department of the Interior recognize the importance of protecting the Atlantic when it removed the Atlantic from its 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. It would be puzzling if BOEM decided to open the Atlantic to exploration after Interior’s decision.

Therefore, we are respectfully requesting BOEM to engage in comprehensive environmental assessments of the impact that seismic testing could have in the Atlantic.  These assessments should include site-specific EIS, should be done in formal consultation with NOAA Fisheries, and should allow the public to voice its concerns through a comment period, and at a public hearing.  Fisheries management councils, environmental groups, fishermen, and other stakeholders should have ample opportunities to share both their expertise and objections through a transparent and fair process.

If scientific evidence and public comment is fully considered, we believe these seismic testing applications will be soundly rejected. We appreciate your consideration of this request, and we look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

____________________________                            ____________________________

FRANK PALLONE, JR.                                           FRANK LOBIONDO

Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress

____________________________                            ____________________________

BONNIE WATSON COLEMAN                             DONALD NORCROSS

Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress

____________________________                            ____________________________

ALBIO SIRES                                                           DONALD M. PAYNE, JR.

Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress

____________________________                           

BILL PASCRELL, JR.                                             

Member of Congress