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Sen. Booker Urges Denial of Applications for Offshore Oil Exploration in Mid-Atlantic

Booker: “Applications under consideration represent a serious threat to the New Jersey’s coastal economy and coastal wildlife.”

August 28, 2015

Newark, NJ – U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan urging her to deny four seismic survey applications for oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean.  Seismic exploration for oil-and-gas is the first step towards potential offshore drilling in the Mid-Atlantic, which represents a significant threat to the environment, the fishing industry, and New Jersey’s costal economy. 

 

In the letter, Sen. Booker calls the applications incomplete because they fail to address the cumulative long-range impacts that seismic activity poses to marine life. 

 

“Seismic airgun surveys disrupt foraging and other vital behaviors in endangered whales, dramatically depress catch rates of commercial fish, and can impact a wide range of marine species over extraordinarily large areas of ocean. In March, a group of seventy-five marine scientists, including some of the nation’s leading experts in marine biology and bioacoustics, concluded that the seismic airgun activity proposed off the Atlantic coast is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of marine mammals and other species throughout the region.”

 

Booker continued, “The applications under consideration represent a serious threat to New Jersey’s coastal economy and coastal wildlife. I respectfully ask that NMFS determine these four applications to be incomplete and inadequate, and deny them in their entirety.”

 

The full text of the letter is below.

 

Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Administrator

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

1401 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room 5128

Washington, DC 20230

 

Dear Dr. Sullivan:

 

I am writing to comment on the four seismic survey applications for oil-and-gas exploration in the Mid-Atlantic that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is presently considering in connection with Incidental Harassment Authorization requests under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). As NOAA has long recognized, ocean noise represents a significant threat to marine mammals, fish and other marine life which depend on sound for the most basic aspects of their reproduction and survival. 

 

Seismic airgun surveys disrupt foraging and other vital behaviors in endangered whales, dramatically depress catch rates of commercial fish, and can impact a wide range of marine species over extraordinarily large areas of ocean. In March, a group of seventy-five marine scientists, including some of the nation’s leading experts in marine biology and bioacoustics, concluded that the seismic airgun activity proposed off the Atlantic coast is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of marine mammals and other species throughout the region. 

 

On July 29, NMFS published a “notice of receipt of applications” in the Federal Register, and requested comments from the public on several broad topics related to the agency’s consideration of the four seismic survey applications initially under review. These four applications appear to be incomplete and inadequate, contrary to what NMFS’ regulations require for further review and approval. 50 C.F.R. §216.104(b)(1).

 

For example, none of the applications address the cumulative, long-range impacts that the scientific community has identified as a major environmental concern. The applications appear to assume that impacts will occur only a short distance from the seismic vessel, in contradiction of the best scientific evidence; they fail to consider the reasonably foreseeable impacts of other seismic surveys in their assessment of impacts; and they do not propose or even consider any mitigation that might reduce those far-reaching, cumulative effects.

 

The applications under consideration represent a serious threat to New Jersey’s coastal economy and coastal wildlife. I respectfully ask that NMFS determine these four applications to be incomplete and inadequate, and deny them in their entirety.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Cory A. Booker

Cc: Abigail Ross Hopper, Director, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

 

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