A congressman representing the southern Jersey Shore has introduced legislation to halt permits for controversial seismic airgun blasting along the Atlantic seaboard.
Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo (R-02) says the practice, used by petroleum companies to identify oil and gas reservoirs deep in the ocean floor, has “significant, adverse effects” on marine life.
“The ecological damage and negative economic impact caused by seismic testing is clear, which is why there is near-unanimous opposition from local concerned residents, commercial and recreational fishermen, and environmentalists along the Jersey Shore. This bipartisan legislation reaffirms my strong opposition to seismic airgun testing in waters off South Jersey,” the congressman said in a news release announcing the Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection Act.
The release says the “loud, repetitive, and explosive sounds” can harm aquatic species, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, by causing “hearing damage, stress, and other harm.”
But in the August 22, 2014 edition of “Science Notes,” a newsletter published by the federal government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, an agency representative wrote that in more than 30 years of air gun use, “there has been no documented scientific evidence of the noise […] adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities.”
The newsletter notes that the government requires mitigation measures, including a required distance between surveys and marine mammals and closures for certain species.
The legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Don Beyer (VA-08), comes after President Donald Trump’s signing of an executive order last week that could reopen the Atlantic Ocean for drilling.
Pending permits for blasting were halted before former President Barack Obama left office but LoBiondo says the Trump administration is likely to reopen the process.
Special interest organizations, fishery management councils, and local, state, and federal lawmakers have recently spoken out against offshore drilling.