Today more than 30 members of Congress wrote to President Obama and Interior Secretary Salazar, urging the administration against opening the U.S. east coast to airgun exploration for oil and gas.
This is a very welcome development. As I’ve noted before, airguns are not only the gateway drug for offshore drilling, they represent in themselves a major assault on the marine environment. The intense sound they create – which the Congressional letters rightly compare to explosives – has serious consequences for endangered whales and fisheries. According to the administration, its exploration plans would injure as many as 138,500 marine mammals and disrupt feeding, calving, breeding, and other vital activities more than 13.5 million times over the next several years. And these impacts, the House letter says, “may be underestimates because the [Interior Department] has used flawed and outdated science which severely understates the acoustic impacts of airguns.”
The House letter concludes:
The time and resources that the DOI is allocating to seismic airgun testing could be better used on higher priorities that will allow us to move away from dirty fuels and faster achieve U.S. energy independence. Furthermore, the use of airguns for this proposed seismic testing will result in serious negative impacts on our marine resources that form the foundation of economic vitality for communities all along the Atlantic coast. We urge your administration to stop this process and focus on ensuring the vitality of coastal economies along the Atlantic coast that need it now more than ever. We cannot put our ocean environment, beaches, marine resources, and coastal economies at risk.