While the U.S. Congress fiddles, other legislative bodies are managing to get something positive done.
Yesterday, in Strasburg, Germany, the European Parliament voted in favor of a new statutory provision that would require the preparation of Environmental Impact Assessments for offshore oil and gas surveys. These are the same seismic airgun surveys that have raised such serious concern domestically—blasting the water every 10 to 12 seconds for weeks or months on end, and disrupting marine mammal and fish behavior over massive scales. In Europe as in the United States, industry is expanding into new regions and new habitat as deep-water fields become accessible. Unfortunately some EU member states have recently issued permits for high-energy airgun surveys without undertaking the essential review that an environmental assessment affords.
Requiring impact assessments for an activity as broadly disruptive as this one should be a no-brainer. Yet the oil and gas industry lobbied heavily against it, and the outcome, despite the efforts of NRDC and its partners OceanCare and IFAW, was uncertain until the end. Now the fight turns to the European Council, which must approve the legislation or send it to the EU equivalent of a conference committee. But hats off in the meantime to the Parliament.