WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) today sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in opposition to proposed oil and gas geophysical survey activity, including seismic testing, in the Atlantic Ocean. According to NOAA, the scale of the proposed surveys is unprecedented in U.S. waters.

NOAA will be reviewing applications from four companies for seismic testing of oil and gas resources in the Atlantic Ocean from Delaware to Florida. The applications are for Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHA), which would allow for the companies to injure and harass marine mammals with the use of seismic airgun testing.

In their letter, the lawmakers wrote, “This type of seismic airgun testing poses a serious threat to fish populations, profitable fisheries and marine life…It should also be noted that offshore oil and gas drilling, as this survey intends to study, would put New Jersey’s economy and shore communities at significant risk. At a time when New Jerseyans are still working to rebuild their lives after Sandy, the last thing we need is the prospect of a manmade disaster from an oil spill.”

Menendez and Pallone expressed particular concern with the application from Spectrum Geo, which would allow for the injury of marine mammals during a marine geophysical survey.

The full text of the letter follows.

August 10, 2015

Dear Administrator Sullivan,

We write today regarding Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) requests under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) for proposed oil and gas geophysical survey activity in the Atlantic Ocean.

According to NOAA, the scale of the proposed surveys is unprecedented in U.S. waters, with some surveys involving multiple source vessels, occurring year-round throughout a broad section of the Atlantic Ocean, and involving much larger acoustic sources that produce more noise than the typical academic seismic survey. These companies that seek permission to undertake oil and gas geophysical survey activities are applying for permission to operate seismic airguns, which fire intense blasts of compressed air as loud as explosives, 24 hours a day for an entire year. This type of seismic airgun testing poses a serious threat to fish populations, profitable fisheries and marine life.

Airgun noise has been shown to decrease fisheries catch rates by 40-80 percent, forcing fishermen to seek compensation for their losses. Commercial and recreational fishing off the Mid- and South Atlantic generate billions of dollars annually and support over 200,000 jobs. Putting our coastal economy at risk for the sake of searching for oil and gas off the Atlantic Coast is dangerous and misguided.

Furthermore, airgun testing could injure or kill thousands of marine mammals and fish, including endangered species such as the North Atlantic right whale. These loud airgun blasts can be heard for hundreds of miles in the ocean and can drive whales and other marine mammals to abandon their habitats, go silent, and cease foraging over vast areas. At shorter distances, side effects include permanent hearing loss, injury, and even death for whales, dolphins and fish. We are particularly concerned with the application by Spectrum Geo, which has requested permission for “Level A Harassment,” defined as the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild.

It should also be noted that offshore oil and gas drilling, as this survey intends to study, would put New Jersey’s economy and shore communities at significant risk. At a time when New Jerseyans are still working to rebuild their lives after Sandy, the last thing we need is the prospect of a manmade disaster from an oil spill.

We respectfully request that you deny the pending IHA requests under the MMPA. It is irresponsible to allow for this disruptive and destructive testing in the Atlantic Ocean, which could ultimately lead to oil and gas development in the Mid- and South Atlantic. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

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