The Beacon

Blog Tags: Seismic Airgun Testing

All Too Familiar: Offshore Drilling Explosion and Fire in Gulf of Mexico

NOT AGAIN: Rig explodes and catches fire today in Gulf of Mexico l Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

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. W
e urge you to sign our petition telling President Obama to reject seismic airgun testing and future offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.


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Congressman Pallone Challenges Secretary of Interior on Seismic Testing in Committee Hearing

Congressman Frank Pallone, defender of the oceans and the creatures that call them home!

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.


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Natural Gas Leaks from Gas Well in Gulf of Mexico

A fly-over photo attempts to capture the insidious "rainbow sheen" of natural gas blanketing wide swaths of the Gulf of Mexico after the gas leak began on Monday. Photo: Bill Dugger l On Wings of Care

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).


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Reckless Bill Passes House of Representatives

HR 2231 could nearly double U.S. offshore drilling, threatening tens of thousands of marine animals like this common bottlenose dolphin.

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.


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What Do Historic CO2 Levels Mean for the Oceans?

“Keeling Curve” shows CO2 levels increase from 1958-2013. (Source: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD)


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.


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An Eventful April for Oceana's Climate and Energy Team

Mock oil spills like this one were staged around the country in April to demonstrate disastrous effects of oil drilling on the oceans. Photo: Sarah Schwimmer

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.


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Record-Setting Water Temps Changing Marine Ecosystems

Map showing shifts in distribution of many fish stocks in the Northeast U.S. (Credit: Janet Nye, NEFSC/NOAA)

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.”


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Success on South Beach!

Team Oceana poses victorious after setting dual performance records in raising funds for the oceans!

Every spring, the Nautica South Beach Triathlon gives us reason to smile. There’s the energetic crowds, the celebrity entrants, and the warm-but-not-too-brutally-hot April weather on Miami Beach. This year, however, in Oceana’s 5th year participating through our partnership with Nautica, our grins got even bigger as we set a pair of performance records where it matters most: raising funds for our conservation work

Team Oceana, comprised of seven passionate ocean advocates, nearly doubled its previous fundraising record at the race, raising $7,171, while our partners at Nautica raised another $20,000 for Oceana by donating 100% of proceeds generated from their beachside shop. That’s $27,000 raised in one weekend, which will go a long way toward improving the condition of the oceans around South Florida, the country, and the world 


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A Deaf Whale is a Dead Whale: Keep the Atlantic Free of Seismic Testing

The government estimates seismic testing in the Atlantic will injure 22,809 common dolphins. ©Oceana

Imagine living next to a construction zone, where every ten seconds, every day, for days to weeks on end, you are subjected to loud, disruptive explosions while you’re trying to eat, sleep and function in your normal routine. If the Department of the Interior approves a proposal to allow seismic airgun testing in the Atlantic, this nightmare could become a reality for the thousands of marine animals that call these waters home. Oceana’s new report “A Deaf Whale is a Dead Whale” illustrates the extremely harmful impacts seismic testing could have on vital animal behaviors, as well as 730,000 jobs along the East Coast that depend on a healthy ocean ecosystem.

Seismic testing occurs when vessels tow airguns that blast compressed air into the ocean floor to search for oil and gas deposits, and these blasts are 100,000 times more intense than the sound of a jet engine. The tests occur continuously every ten seconds, all day, and the government itself estimates it will injure 138,500 whales and dolphins, as well as disrupt and displace thousands of other marine animals like threated loggerhead sea turtles and fish. Due to the loudness of the airgun blasts, whales, dolphins and other animals that depend on their hearing to survive could go temporarily, or even permanently, deaf.

The proposed blasting zone is twice the size of California, spanning from Delaware to Florida. Airguns and future oil spills would put many communities at risk that depend on a healthy ocean, including 200,000 commercial and recreational fishing jobs.


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10 Reasons to Prevent Seismic Airgun Testing in the Atlantic

Image via Current.com.

Yesterday, members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate sent letters to President Obama urging him to stop proposed seismic airgun testing in the Atlantic Ocean.

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is currently deciding if seismic airgun testing should be allowed to search for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of seven states from Delaware to Florida.

This type of seismic testing involves the use of airguns, which are towed behind ships and shoot loud blasts of compressed air at 250 decibels through the water and miles into the seabed to search for deep oil and gas deposits. These airguns make intense pulses of sound, almost as loud as explosives, every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for days to weeks on end. The blasts are so loud and constant that they can injure or disturb vital behaviors in fish, dolphins, whales and sea turtles.

Marine life impacts can include temporary and permanent hearing loss, abandonment of habitat, disruption of mating and feeding, and even beach strandings and death. If approved, seismic airguns will threaten endangered species, fisheries and coastal economies throughout the Atlantic.

These disruptive airguns are unnecessary and dangerous and here are the top 10 reasons why:

1. Seismic airgun testing is the first step towards deepwater drilling, the same practice that brought us the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in 2010.

2. Seismic airgun testing will injure about 138,500 whales and dolphins, nine of which are North Atlantic right whales, one of the most endangered species on the planet, based on DOI’s own study, which may underestimate the impacts.

3. In Peru in early 2012, 900 dolphins and porpoises washed up on shore dead with physical signs of damage to their ear bones following seismic airgun testing. In 2008 a similar mass die off occurred for dozens of melon-headed whales in Madagascar after testing.

4. Because it displaces fish and can harm fisheries, seismic airgun testing threatens over 200,000 jobs in commercial and recreational fishing.

5. There are less harmful technologies than airguns on the horizon but they are not being considered by DOI.

6. Seismic testing or drilling in the Atlantic would not reduce U.S. gas prices by even a penny.

7. Oil and gas companies already own oil and gas leases on millions of acres of federal lands and waters, many of them are inactive and have not been developed.

8. The burning of oil and gas contributes to global climate change and ocean acidification, so new drilling in the Atlantic is not the solution to our energy challenges.

9. There is no need to conduct seismic airgun testing now, since the administration does not plan to hold oil and gas lease sales in the area until at least 2017.

10. Atlantic offshore wind could supply more jobs and energy than oil and gas in the region.

Learn more about the harmful impacts of seismic airguns and tell the President to protect whales and dolphins in the Atlantic, not drive them away. 


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