Wednesday, May 2, 2012

ALERT: Submit your comment against seismic testing off Atlantic Coast


Atlantic OCS Planning Area
It takes less than a minute to submit an online comment to BOEM expressing your opposition to seismic testing.  Just go to http://adoptanocean.org/  and click on the word "here" in the Public Comments box on the right side of the web page where you'll see a sample message to BOEM which you can personalize or submit as is.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has proposed seismic testing for oil and gas and mineral sands in the Atlantic Ocean, in a large offshore area from New Jersey to Florida's space coast.  Evidence shows that such testing with air guns causes death and severe injury to marine mammals such as whales and dolphins and would displace and depress the catch rates of various species of fish.



Sierra Club Testimony at Jacksonville, FL Public Hearing April 16, 2012


The Florida Chapter of the Sierra is opposed to the proposed seismic testing on the East Coast of the United States as we believe that there is overwhelming evidence that the seismic testing with the use of air guns causes death and severe injury to marine mammals such as whales and dolphins. We also believe that such seismic testing displaces and depresses the catch rates of various species of fish.

We believe that the evidence shows that the proposed seismic testing will be very detrimental to our oceans because:

• To search for oil and gas, the industry uses arrays of air guns, which are towed behind ships and release intense blasts of compressed air into the water – just about the loudest sounds human make short of explosives. Imagine dynamite going off in your neighborhood every 10 seconds for days, weeks and months on end. Now imagine that you depend on your hearing to feed, mate, travel, communicate and do just about everything else necessary for survival. That is the situation that endangered whales, commercial and recreational fish, and other wildlife are facing with air gun exploration. This activity has a huge environmental footprint. Air gun noise is loud enough to mask whale calls over literally thousands of miles, destroying their capacity to communicate and breed. It can drive whales to abandon their habitat and cease foraging, again over vast areas of ocean. For example, a single air gun array in the North Atlantic caused endangered fin and humpback whales to stop singing – a behavior essential to their mating and foraging – and abandon habitat over an area more than 100,000 square miles in size. Closer in, it can cause hearing loss, injury and death.

• Big Oil has already applied to MMS and BOEM to run hundreds of thousands of miles of air gun surveys off the east coast. Over the next eight years – according to the administration’s own estimates – seismic exploration would injure up to 138,500 marine mammals and disrupt marine mammal feeding, calving, breeding, and other vital activities more than 13.5 million times.

• Air gun booming – and oil and gas development more generally – threatens our fisheries and coastal economies. Air guns have been shown to displace commercial species of fish horizontally and vertically in the water column on a vast scale – over thousands of square kilometers. The result has been to dramatically depress catch rates of species such as cod, haddock, and rockfish across areas as large as the state of Rhode Island, leading fishermen in Norway and other parts of the world to seek industry compensation for their losses.

• Seismic testing has negative impacts on commercial and recreational fishermen. Commercial and recreational fishing off the mid- and southeast Atlantic (not including New Jersey) generate $11.8 billion annually and support 222,000 jobs. Fishermen in some parts of the world where seismic testing is already occurring are seeking industry compensation for their losses.

• Green-lighting seismic also poses threats to the $20 million whale-watching industry in the mid- and southeast Atlantic. And if the administration takes the next step and opens up the coast to oil and gas drilling, the entire $23 billion coastal tourism and recreational industries are at risk – just as they are in the Gulf of Mexico.

• To reduce harm, BOEM must keep air guns out of sensitive environmental areas, promote use of greener alternatives, and require companies to share data.

• The sole habitat protection the administration has proposed – to protect the critically endangered right whale – is grossly inadequate given the distances noise travels. Under the administration’s proposal, a survey can take place right on the edge of the right whale’s only known calving grounds, completely filling it with disruptive sound. No other species (or fishery) would receive even this much protection.

• According to two expert reports, including one funded by the oil and gas industry itself, greener alternative technologies that could substantially cut the environmental footprint of airguns in many areas are already well into development and can be available for commercial use in three to five years, or less. Yet the administration is opening the floodgates now, in areas it doesn’t even intend to consider for leasing until 2017. There is no reason to rush ahead with this dangerous activity before safer, greener technologies are available.

• Booming-and-drilling off our coasts makes no sense. Ultimately, if we care about our fisheries, our marine life, and our coastal economies, the right vision is offshore renewable like wind farms. Scanning the ocean floor for wind farm development uses a technology that is orders of magnitude safer than air guns.

• According to two expert reports, including one funded by the oil and gas industry itself, greener alternative technologies that could substantially cut the environmental footprint of air guns in many areas are already well into development and can be available for commercial use in three to five years, or less. Yet the administration is opening the floodgates now, in areas it doesn’t even intend to consider for leasing until 2017. There is no reason to rush ahead with this dangerous activity before safer, greener technologies are available.

Thank you for your careful consideration of these comments.


-- prepared and presented by Brian Paradise on behalf of Sierra Club Florida