RALEIGH — Bipartisan governors along the coast Thursday urged Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to prohibit seismic testing and offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.
Following last month’s announcement that the Trump Administration authorized airgun use in waters off the East Coast, Gov. Roy Cooper along with Democratic and Republican governors of states along the Atlantic Coast sent a letter Thursday urging the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Commerce to deny all permit applications for seismic testing, exclude the waters off the East Coast from the 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for offshore drilling, avoid issuing further IHAs for seismic airgun surveys and prevent any future offshore drilling efforts in the Atlantic Ocean, according to an announcement from the governor’s office.
“Seismic testing opens the door to offshore drilling that threatens an entire way of life along our coast,” Gov. Cooper said in a statement. “North Carolina’s economy, environment and unique coastal communities are too valuable to put at risk with little potential for long-term gain.”
The letter was signed by Cooper, Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Gov. John Carney of Delaware, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia and Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island.
“As the governors of states on the Atlantic seaboard, we write to reiterate our strong opposition to seismic airgun surveys and oil and gas drilling off our coasts,” the governors wrote. “These activities pose an unacceptable and unnecessary threat to our coastal ecosystems and coastal economies.”
In November, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Fisheries department issued incidental harassment authorizations, or IHAs, for seismic airgun surveys to five companies searching for oil and gas deposits in the Atlantic. The decision follows months of vocal opposition from states along the East Coast, which have repeatedly urged the federal government to protect coastal tourism and fisheries by halting seismic testing and offshore drilling.
“Drilling in the Atlantic would pose significant threats to Delaware’s natural resources and our economy,” said Carney in the release. “I am proud to stand with fellow Atlantic state governors in opposition to seismic testing and drilling for oil and gas off our coasts. There’s too much at risk for Delaware and the Atlantic Seaboard to allow this to go unchallenged.”
“Rhode Islanders know that as the Ocean State, our coastal ecosystem is vital to our environmental and economic security,” said Raimondo. “Seismic airgun testing poses a threat to both — and opens a path for harmful offshore drilling.”
Seismic testing and offshore drilling pose significant economic and environmental threats to communities along the Atlantic Coast, which generate more than $98 billion in gross domestic product each year. “Seismic airgun blasts can deplete fish populations that are vital for commercial and recreational fishing industries and offshore drilling increases the risk of catastrophic oil spills, which devastate marine life and tourism and hurt coastal economies. Hundreds of tourism associations, chambers of commerce, convention and visitors bureaus, businesses, trade groups, elected officials and local governments have formally opposed seismic testing and offshore drilling,” according to the release.