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Oceana Video: Seismic Shift: East Coast Opposition to Offshore Oil

Voices Rise Against Offshore Drilling / Seismic Testing

Posted 3 February 2016 - by Carol Brighton | Updated - 3.15.16 & 3.5.17

Researchers that use hydrophones to gather undersea data have discovered that our oceans are filled with noise pollution. One particularly harmful source of sound comes from seismic testing. Regarding this activity, Christopher Willes Clark, a bioacoustician from Cornell University was recently quoted in a BBC publication: "We set off extremely loud explosions every 10 seconds for months at a time such that I can hear a prospecting survey going on near Ireland – I can hear that off Virginia.”

Proposed offshore drilling and prerequisite seismic testing off the Atlantic Coast has residents and environmental groups concerned. As of this writing, Oceana reports that 102 East Coast municipalities, 100 Members of Congress including Representative Bobby Scott, more than 660 state and local elected officials, and roughly 750 business interests have all publicly opposed offshore drilling. The group recently hosted a two day summit in Washington, DC to urge the the Obama administration to abandon plans to open out the Atlantic to drilling and related exploration. Celebrity guests included Sam Waterson, Ted Danson and Kate Walsh.


Image: Oceana/Franz Mahr

Laura Wood Habr, co-owner of Croc's 19th Street Bistro and the vice president of the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association attended the Oceana event. “Virginia’s tourism, lodging and restaurant industries are united against drilling off our state’s coast, and I’m in in Washington, DC to urge my elected officials to speak out against this dangerous proposal," said Habr. "Tourism is Virginia Beach's biggest economic engine—it directly supported nearly 13,000 jobs in 2014, and restaurant sales have exceeded $1 billion for the past two years. It is short-sighted and ill-advised to put a proven, thriving industry at risk when the threats of offshore drilling far outweigh any potential jobs or economic gain. The federal government will be making a decision in the next few weeks that will influence the fate of our industry for generations to come—my governor, senators and congressional representatives need to hear us, and speak out now."

Industry organizations that have come out against seismic testing and/or offshore drilling include the Virginia Restaurant & Travel Association, the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association, the Virginia Beach Resort Advisory Commission, the Virginia Beach Hotel Association and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. In December 2015, the City of Virginia Beach repealed its long standing support for ‪‎offshore drilling. Instead of taking a stand against it, the City will remain neutral until the Navy issues its guidance.


In January after announcing major funding for climate resiliency plans in Norfolk (more on that here), the Virginian-Pilot reported that Governor McAuliffe met with business leaders at the oceanfront resort strip to hear offshore drilling concerns. Bruce Thompson, a real estate mogul, was among the group. If he wields as much clout with the Governor as he does with local officials, offshore drilling will soon lose the state's enthusiastic support. That may already be happening as studies have surfaced that show the potential economic benefits of drilling fall short of industry claims, not to mention the implied climate contradictions of oil exploration.


UPDATE 3.5.16: After concerns were issued by both the Pentagon and NASA, along with much public outcry, in March 2016, the Obama administration put East Coast drilling plans on hold through 2022. However, seismic testing applications are still being considered.


UPDATE 3.5.17: During President Obama's last month in office, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued denials for the pending applications for seismic exploration along the East Coast citing that there is no immediate need to conduct surveys since leases are off limits for the next five years. According to an Oceana press release: “More than 120 East Coast municipalities, over 1,200 elected officials, and an alliance representing over 35,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families have publicly opposed offshore drilling and/or seismic airgun blasting. These individuals and groups understand that nearly 1.4 million jobs and more than $95 billion in gross domestic product are at risk if dangerous oil activities occur in the Atlantic Ocean.”


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