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State environmental groups rally community against seismic testing

Courtesy of NRDC

Delaware environmental groups came together Wednesday night in Lewes to organize the community against seismic testing — the first step towards offshore drilling for oil and gas.




Just last year, Delawareans were calling their representatives urging them to oppose seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean under the Obama administration.


Now, under the Trump Administration, seismic testing and offshore drilling are back on the table. Environmental groups like Oceana, the Surfrider Foundation and the Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation Institute are encouraging Delawareans again to call their representatives and sign petitions.


“It’s purely a new administration that didn’t like the result of the last round and wants the same thing with an eye on a different result which is clearly against what folks in Delaware want to see,” said Caroline Wood, the Mid-Atlantic campaign organizer for Oceana. 


That includes folks like Lewes resident Barbara Vaughn.


“I’m horrified the seismic drilling could come back,” Vaughn said.


Surveys like these were last done along the Atlantic Coast in the 1980s. 


It’s not the first time state environmental groups are rallying to stop this. In 2016, the Obama administration considered allowing six companies the right to use airguns to test for oil and gas under the ocean floor. Those six permits were denied in January 2017.


John Weber is the mid-Atlantic regional manager for the Surfrider Foundation. He said they know what it takes to get their point across.


“We had this surfboard that actually traveled from south Florida all the way up the coast to Washington D.C. Along the way, we had businesses, restaurants, surf shops, anybody that had a business along the coast, that was coastal dependent, they signed the surfboard, and we delivered that to officials in Washington D.C. and we think that helped us win,” Weber said.


He continued, “We didn’t want this last time around, we don’t want it this time around.”


Environmental groups are continuing to educate the public about the effects of seismic testing through the end of the comment period. Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation Institute director Suzanne Thurman pointed out seismic testing blasts the seafloor with airguns every 10 seconds 24 hours a day - which is bad for marine mammals that rely on hearing to stay connected to their young or give birth.


The airgun blasts can be up to 250 decibels, which could be fatal to marine animals, she said. A person’s eardrums rupture at 170 decibels.


“What happens to the oceans happens to us as humans. We cannot survive on Earth without healthy oceans,” Thurman said.


Kathy Phillips with Assateague Coastal Trust said there is about 4.7 billion barrels of oil reserves in the Atlantic. The majority of it is in the Mid-Atlantic region. Those 4.7 billion barrels, Phillips said, only provide about eight months of supplies. For natural gas, it’s about 21 months worth of supplies. 


“We would be setting up an industry offshore here that has a total lifespan of about 19-and-a-half years,” Phillips said. “We have to think about our coastal economy, our commercial fishing industries, our recreational fishing industries, how long have those been in existence and how much further into the future can we depend on those for supporting our coastal economy?”


NOAA is now at the tail-end of a 30-day public comment period before deciding if it will give five companies the go-ahead to disturb marine life, using seismic blasting in their search for oil and gas on the coast.


The comment period ends July 6.


To learn more about seismic blasting, or how to comment before the period ends, visit Oceana's webpage

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