WASHINGTON, D.C. — An organization of East Coast businesses that urged federal officials in December to take Atlantic offshore waters out of consideration for drilling for oil and natural gas is making another effort to derail plans for offshore oil exploration.
The Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, which formed in September 2016, is urging the Obama administration to deny pending offshore oil exploration permits.
Obama in December used his authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to permanently remove 3.8 million acres in the north and mid-Atlantic Ocean from future mineral extraction, protecting an area off the East Coast from New England to Virginia. Waters from North Carolina to Florida were not included in the action.
The Obama Administration has as many as six seismic testing permits awaiting approval at the Department of Interior. Opponents, including the alliance, say seismic testing, which is still possible in offshore waters from Virginia to Florida, would damage marine life and affect local economies.
The process uses airgun blasting to search beneath the sea floor for oil deposits. One seismic vessel can tow up to 96 airguns that can cover an area 21 times larger than the National Mall in Washington, which covers more than 10 square miles. These blasts are repeated every 10 to 12 seconds and can be heard at great distances under water.
Federal officials say as many as 138,000 marine mammals could be directly injured or harmed because of seismic blasting and millions more will be disturbed. Oil industry advocates counter that there is no conclusive evidence of injury from seismic surveying. Biologists say more research is needed to ascertain the effects on marine mammals, fish and ecosystems.
“We only have a few more days to protect the Atlantic Coast from destructive exploration for oil, at least for a while,” said Tom Kies, president of the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce and co-founder of the alliance. We’re asking all the over 35,000 business and 500,000 commercial fishing families who support BAPAC to contact the White House and ask that all permits for seismic testing be denied.”