It’s not often that a government delay is cause for celebration, but this time the oceans caught a break. After campaigning by Oceana and our allies, the Department of the Interior decided to postpone their decision on whether to allow seismic airgun use off the Atlantic coast until next March.
This is the third time Oceana has successfully delayed the decision, allowing us the chance to build opposition and to urge more lawmakers to protect marine mammals by opposing testing. It also gives the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration time to update its outdated standards for the level of noise that is harmful to sea life.
To the editor:
This letter is in response to the July 24 article titled, “Dolphin dies after beaching in Ocean City.”
We always knew that dolphins were incredible, but this story made our jaws drop – a dolphin, captured and held in captivity for several years, escaped from her pen and reunited with her pod. The dolphin, named Sampal, was accidentally caught by fishermen off Jeju Island, near South Korea, as reported by the environmental blog Take Part, which has been charting this epic tale. Instead of being released, however, Sampal was then illegally sold by fishermen to the Pacific Land Aquarium, where she was forced for years to perform tricks for food.
UPDATE, Friday, July 26. 10:40 AM: On Thursday evening, officials stated that the gas was cut off on the burning Hercules 265 drilling rig. The only remaining fire is a small flame fueled by residual gas at the top of the well. However, these recent leaks and explosions should remind us that offshore drilling is"inherently risky," and that blowouts "aren't that infrequent." Those quotes are from Michael Bromwich, the former chief of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and its predecessor agency, the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management Regulation and Enforcement.
"These all should be learning exercises," Bromwich went on to say. "What went wrong here? Were there errors in human judgment? What remedial or corrective actions should be taken by the company, and what can the industry and what can the regulators learn?"
To us, the lessons are clear -- shift away from dirty and dangerous fossil fuels, and towards clean, safe and forever renewable sources of energy like offshore wind. If we want to prevent these disasters in the future, we must reject offshore drilling outright. We urge you to sign our petition telling President Obama to reject seismic airgun testing and future offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.
In a House Natural Resources Committee meeting last week, Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey expressed his strong opposition to proposed seismic airgun testing along the Atlantic coast, and even delivered a question on seismic testing from Oceana directly to Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell. Pallone, a senior member of the committee, stated that because he is “staunchly opposed to drilling in the Atlantic,” he is against the proposed seismic airgun testing for oil and gas in the region. Seismic airgun testing, which uses dynamite-like blasts of compressed air to search for fossil fuels under the ocean floor, is the first step towards offshore drilling for oil and gas. A proposed plan for seismic airgun testing will span the Atlantic Ocean from Delaware to Florida.
Sure, it may not be as dramatic as the fiery shots of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but this image still makes us sick to our stomachs -- An oil and gas well in the Gulf of Mexico has been leaking natural gas into the ocean for the last four days. The well, which was reportedly being closed up after 15 years of inactivity, began leaking after a "loss of well control event" at 9:45 a.m. on Monday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.2231, the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act, a reckless bill that would nearly double U.S. offshore drilling, force new lease sales off the coasts of Virginia, South Carolina and Southern California, and gut critical environmental safeguards. H.R.2231 is yet another giveaway to Big Oil that puts offshore drilling above all else while gutting critical environmental safeguards and doing nothing to make us more energy independent.
For the first time in human history, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels passed 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide at the historic Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This is the same location where Scripps Institution of Oceanography researcher Charles David Keeling first established the “Keeling Curve,” a famous graph showing that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing rapidly in the atmosphere. CO2 was around 280 ppm before the Industrial Revolution, when humans first began releasing large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. On May 9, the reading was a startling 400.08 ppm for a 24-hour period. But without the help of the oceans, this number would already be much higher.
Oceana’s climate and energy campaign had an eventful April. In our ongoing effort to stop East Coast offshore drilling before it starts, we’ve been working hard to prevent the oil industry from taking the first step toward drilling: seismic airguns to explore for oil.
The specifics of seismic airgun testing are worth understanding if only because the oil industry seems to be counting on Americans’ lack of knowledge about this highly specific technology in order to get a foothold in some ocean areas that have been protected from drilling since the Reagan administration.
The oceans are heating up, and marine ecosystems are changing because of it. Long before climate scientists realized the extent of impacts from carbon dioxide emissions, ocean scientists were taking simple temperature readings. Now those readings are off the charts, showing an ocean thrown out of balance from human-caused climate change. Sea surface temperatures hit a 150 year high off the U.S. East Coast from Maine to North Carolina during 2012.
These abnormally high temperatures are fundamentally altering marine ecosystems, from the abundance of plankton to the movement of fish and whales. Many marine species have specific time periods for spawning, migration, and birthing based on temperature signals and availability of prey. Kevin Friedland, a scientist in NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Ecosystem Assessment Program, said “Changes in ocean temperatures and the timing and strength of spring and fall plankton blooms could affect the biological clocks of many marine species, which spawn at specific times of the year based on environmental cues like water temperature.”