U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., took the lead in rounding up more than 100 members of Congress to urge the Trump administration to stand against seismic testing in the Atlantic, insisting it’s the first step towards offshore drilling.
Rutherford paired up with U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., to send a letter to U.S. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke. In the letter, the congressmen wrote that seismic testing and drilling would put fishing, tourism and other parts of the economy “at risk.” Back in April, the Trump administration indicated it was open to energy exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf Planning Areas, including off the Atlantic seaboard.
“Traveling through my district I have heard from countless business owners and residents along the North Florida coasts who are concerned about the risks of seismic testing to our healthy ocean fisheries,” Rutherford said on Thursday. “While future offshore drilling activities in the Atlantic would put our communities at risk down the road, seismic testing threatens our fragile coastal economies today. Our coastal economy should not be put at undue risk at a time when our booming oil and gas production is more than enough to meet our current energy needs.”
“Reps. Rutherford and Beyer should be applauded for their leadership in working to protect the Atlantic from loud and dangerous seismic airgun blasting,” said Nancy Pyne, the campaign director at Oceana. “Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade noises in the ocean and are of special concern to marine life that depend on sound for communication and survival. Currently, 126 East Coast municipalities, more than 1,200 local, state and federal officials, and an alliance representing over 41,000 businesses and 500,200 fishing families from Florida to Maine, publicly oppose seismic airgun blasting and/or offshore drilling. The risk to marine life, coastal communities and economies is just too great.”
The representatives sent the letter on Wednesday.
“We are writing in strong opposition to your recent secretarial order (#3350) to move forward with offshore oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean, and the subsequent issuance of five Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for Atlantic geophysical & geological (G&G) permit applications,” they wrote. “This decision to move forward with permits for seismic airgun surveys for subsea oil and gas deposits puts at risk the vibrant Atlantic Coast economies dependent on healthy ocean ecosystems, which generate $95 billion in gross domestic product and support nearly 1.4 million jobs each year. Offshore oil and gas exploration and development, the first step of which is seismic airgun testing, puts at risk coastal economies based on fishing, tourism, and recreation. Numerous studies show the detrimental impacts seismic airgun blasting has on fisheries and marine mammals, thereby affecting the catch anglers bring dockside and the revenue generated by related businesses. A 2014 study conducted off North Carolina’s coast by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Duke University and NOAA found that, during seismic surveying, the abundance of reef-fish declined by 78 percent during evening hours, a time of day when fish use of that same habitat was highest on the previous three days when seismic surveys were not being conducted. The tertiary effects of this trickle down to fishing businesses, restaurants and the visitors that flock to our coastal communities.
“Some proponents of opening drilling in the Atlantic make the argument that seismic airgun surveys for oil and gas deposits would allow local communities to learn more about what resources might be available,” they continued. “The reality is that, by law, the data obtained from seismic surveys are proprietary and only available to the oil and gas industry. The public, local government officials and even members of Congress would not have access to the survey data. This inability to access information leaves coastal communities without the opportunity to perform substantive cost-benefit analyses for extracting oil and gas reserves off their coasts. Our constituents would be left taking on significant risk without being involved in future development decisions.”
The representatives insisted energy exploration would hurt local businesses and even posed a threat to national security preparations.
“We hear from countless business owners, elected officials and residents along our coasts who recognize and reject the risks of offshore oil and gas development,” the representatives wrote. “More than 120 local governments have passed formal resolutions opposing oil and gas exploration and/or drilling in the Atlantic or Eastern Gulf. These include numerous local chambers of commerce, tourism and restaurant associations, commercial and recreational fishing associations, and the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. More than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 commercial fishing families strongly oppose offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling. Further, NASA, the Department of Defense, and the Florida Defense Support Task Force have also expressed concern with offshore oil and gas development threatening their ability to perform critical activities.
“Opening the Atlantic to seismic testing and drilling jeopardizes our coastal businesses, fishing communities, tourism, and our national security,” they wrote in conclusion. “It harms our coastal economies in the near term and opens the door to even greater risks from offshore oil and gas production down the road. Therefore, we implore you not to issue any permits for seismic airgun surveys for subsea oil and gas deposits in the Atlantic Ocean.”
Members of the Florida delegation who signed the letter include Republican U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, Francis Rooney, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Dennis Ross and Ted Yoho and Democrats U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.