Trump’s Seismic Testing Plan Will Cause Major Harm to the Environment

Late last month, the Trump Administration approved a plan to allow oil companies to conduct seismic testing along the Eastern Atlantic. The testing involves seismic air gun blasts which map the ocean floor to determine where there is oil, which is seen as the first step toward the administration leasing federal waters for oil drilling. Offshore drilling is an outdated and harmful technique that we haven’t seen in North Atlantic waters since the 1980’s.

If the companies find areas to drill for oil, the Trump Administration would likely give approval as they have been pushing for offshore drilling in the Atlantic.

Seismic airgun blasts that these companies use to hunt for fuel in the ocean floor harms, and could even kill, many marine animals, including the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Marine animals rely on sounds of the ocean for every necessity in their lives from communicating to finding food to avoiding predators. The Trump Administration’s plan has allowed the companies to “incidentally harass marine mammals.” This means that they can annoy or event torment marine life, which can injure mammals and disrupt necessary behavioral patterns including migrations, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering. According to the NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, blasts will not be allowed within 56 miles of specific endangered marine animals – yet this makes no difference as the sounds from seismic blasts can travel up to 2,000 miles.

Oil and gas exploration not only severely disrupts marine wildlife, but it would also worsen the fight against climate change. Drilling will deter progress towards renewable energy that helps states reach clean energy goals. Research has shown that turning to clean energy is a critical transition to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Prior incidents in the U.S. have shown the severe consequences of offshore drilling accidents. Marine ecosystems and people that depend on them have repeatedly paid the price of offshore oil spills, most notably after the British Petroleum Oil Spill (also known as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill) that occurred eight years ago. This spill caused 11 workers to die, marine ecosystems to diminish, and coastal economies to experience $17.2 billion in damage to properties, fisheries, and tourism. The environmental costs included over 1,400 whales and dolphins stranded by the end of 2015, an estimated half of the dolphins in Barataria Bay to be extremely sick. Twelve percent of the brown pelicans and more than 30% of the laughing gulls in the area died.

Environmental effects are not just limited to the coastlines surrounded the Gulf as well- a 2012 study showed that White pelicans that migrated from the Gulf area to Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa produced eggs that contained compounds linked to the spill.

These mistakes demonstrate the vast negative impacts of offshore drilling, including the impairment of water quality, the obliteration of fisheries, and the death of marine organisms. Even if a spill of this magnitude does not occur in New York State, the inevitable occurrence of spills on a smaller scale will still have a detrimental effect on the environment.  

The Obama administration created new requirements to reduce the risk of another oil disaster, which President Trump repealed in June. If drilling increases and there are fewer environmental standards to be met, this could mean another environmental nightmare in the future.

Earlier this year, NYLCV members took action and urged their legislators to pass S. 8017/A. 9819, which would prohibit offshore drilling in New York State waters. The legislation would allow New York to uphold its commitment to responsible coastal management practices and protect threatened species, fishing industries, and the broader marine economy.

We know that renewable energy is the future. Offshore drilling is a damaging move backward. With a new legislature coming in 2019, NYLCV urges legislators to make this on as a top priority. Thank you to Governor Cuomo, Senator LaValle, and Assemblyman Englebright for sponsoring this critical policy in the fight against climate change.

NYLCV will also continue to advocate for the use of clean energy and support legislation that promotes renewable power sources.