Trump Administration Approves Offshore Airgun Use,
But Governors Urge Protection of Coast
TRENTON - Following the announcement that the Trump Administration authorized airgun use in waters off the East Coast, Governor Phil Murphy and a group of bipartisan governors from nine other states along the Atlantic coastline issued a letter yesterday urging Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to halt harmful seismic testing and offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.
“As the governors of states on the Atlantic seaboard, we write to reiterate our strong opposition to seismic airgun surveys and oil and gas drilling off our coasts,” the governors wrote. “These activities pose an unacceptable and unnecessary threat to our coastal ecosystems and coastal economies.”
The letter was signed by Governor Murphy and the following governors: Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts; Governor John Carney of Delaware; Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina; Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York; Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland; Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut; Governor Henry McMaster of South Carolina; Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia; and Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island.
In November, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Fisheries department issued incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs) for seismic airgun surveys to five companies searching for oil and gas deposits in the Atlantic. The decision follows months of vocal opposition from states along the East Coast, which have repeatedly urged the federal government to protect coastal tourism and fisheries by halting seismic testing and offshore drilling.
In a letter sent on December 20, 2018, the governors urged the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Commerce to deny all permit applications for seismic testing, exclude the waters off the East Coast from the 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for offshore drilling, avoid issuing further IHAs for seismic airgun surveys and prevent any future offshore drilling efforts in the Atlantic Ocean.
“Seismic testing and damaging fossil-fuel drilling along the Atlantic Coast would have devastating, irreversible effects to the economy and natural resources,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “New Jersey has continuously voiced our clear opposition to offshore drilling, including the signing of bipartisan legislation to block oil companies from drilling in state waters. We remain committed to protecting the state’s shoreline and the health and safety of our coastal communities.”
The full letter is available here.
Seismic testing and offshore drilling pose significant economic and environmental threats to communities along the Atlantic Coast, which generate more than $98 billion in gross domestic product each year. Seismic airgun blasts can deplete fish populations that are vital for commercial and recreational fishing industries and offshore drilling increases the risk of catastrophic oil spills, which devastate marine life and tourism and hurt coastal economies. Hundreds of tourism associations, chambers of commerce, convention and visitors bureaus, businesses, trade groups, elected officials and local governments have formally opposed seismic testing and offshore drilling.