The Beacon

Eleven Florida Lawmakers Urge President Obama to Reconsider Approval for Seismic Airgun Testing

A critically endangered North Atlantic right whale and a pod off bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Florida. (Photo:FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute / Flickr Creative Commons)

When the Obama Administration came out in support oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic Coast last Friday, they caused quite the reaction among lawmakers, environmentalists, and citizens along the East Coast. Immediately after releasing their Record of Decision (ROD) approving seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic, all Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation, including Senator Bill Nelson, submitted a letter to President Obama expressing their disapproval of his decision and reiterating their opposition to any blasting for oil and gas off their coast. 

“Not only is this proposed action the first major step toward opening the Atlantic Ocean to offshore drilling, which is potentially devastating for the state’s economy, but the technology used for this exploration is also incredibly harmful to marine mammals and fisheries in the region,” they wrote on Friday. “Expanding unnecessary drilling offshore simply puts too much at risk.” 

The Florida lawmakers highlighted how one side of their state has already reared the devastating effects of an oil spill from deepwater drilling—as they’re still facing consequences from the 2010 BP oil disaster more than four years later. Additionally, the letter calls out the potentially disastrous effects of seismic airgun blasting, and specifically mentions how airgun use could injure 138,000 marine mammals, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, and disrupt their critical biological functions like breeding and calving. Finally, their letter explains how Florida’s beaches, coastlines, and marine resources support a highly successful economy and job market—and any disruption to their natural resources could be devastating for the state’s economy.

While the ROD only provides the framework for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to start reviewing oil and gas exploratory permits, Oceana’s campaign director for climate and energy, Claire Douglass, says it’s still a step in the wrong direction. As proven with the 2010 BP oil disaster and 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, the damage from offshore drilling lingers for decades, and the potential consequences of offshore oil and gas drilling are simply not worth the risk. In fact, seismic airgun testing puts 815,000 jobs in the tourism and recreational and commercial fishing industries in states along the blast zone at risk. 

Additionally, oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic is a waste of taxpayers’ money. The oil industry has suggested that more drilling will reduce dependency on foreign oil and decrease domestic gas prices, but that’s actually not true. The price of oil is set on the world market and domestic production is too small a share of the total to affect it.  Americans get no break at the pump, no matter how much we drill.

Florida lawmakers are not the only ones opposed to oil and gas drilling on the East Coast: More than 100 scientists, 16 coastal towns, 78 local elected officials, 163 conservation and animal welfare organizations, and commercial and recreational fishing groups have already voiced their opposition. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, as well as more than 50 members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, also called on President Obama to stop the use of seismic airguns last year.

Click here to sign another petition to let President Obama know that he made the wrong decision and you can learn more about Oceana’s efforts in the fight against seismic airgun blasting here. Additionally, take a look at Oceana’s new short documentary titled “Drill, Spill, Repeat?” to learn more about the dangers of offshore drilling to marine life, human health, and local economies.


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