[Norfolk, VA – April 24, 2012] – Virginia environmentalists responded with their opposition to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) call for public comment on a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for offshore seismic studies in the Atlantic. They spoke in favor of an alternative that only allows study to support renewable energy development and stood solidly in their opposition to alternatives supporting exploration for oil and gas.
“This seismic study is completely unnecessary when it comes to supporting Virginia’s offshore wind development,” said Eileen Levandoski with the Sierra Club. “Such geological and geophysical studies are already covered by the programmatic Environmental Assessment that BOEM has already approved for the mid-Atlantic wind energy areas which includes Virginia.”
Secretary of Interior Salazar and others contend that seismic testing will not only reveal how much oil and gas may be on the outer continental shelf, but will also benefit research for the offshore wind industry. However, it’s “dynamite vs. a hammer” when comparing the level of seismic study necessary for oil and gas vs. that for offshore wind.
“The oil and gas industry wants to know what is hundreds and thousands of feet below the sea floor; to get information from that far below the ground, they use extremely loud air guns,” continued Levandoski. “But the renewables industry only wants to know what’s on the seafloor and just below it, so they use echo-sounders and sub-bottom profilers that are generally many orders of magnitude quieter than air guns.”
“The type of seismic study used for oil and gas exploration involves huge arrays of air guns blasting repeatedly for months on end,” said Becca Glenn with international ocean conservation group Oceana. “It would be like dynamite going off in your neighborhood over and over. Air gun surveys can cause behavioral changes, hearing loss, injury, and death in marine mammals like dolphins, seals, and whales. Just a single air gun array in the North Atlantic caused endangered fin and humpback whales to abandon 100,000 square miles of habitat. It’s incredibly destructive to the marine ecosystem.”
“Air guns have been shown to displace commercial species on a vast scale – over thousands of square kilometers. The result has been to dramatically depress catch rates of species such as cod, haddock, and rockfish,” said Deborah Murray with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This dangerous activity risks Virginia’s $1.7 billion fishing industry and the over 24,000 people it employs.”
“Offshore seismic studies for oil and gas are clearly the first step toward drilling, which will only prolong our dependence on fossil fuels and cause more climate pollution,” said Hannah Wiegard with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “To stop global warming and slow sea level rise, we need to develop renewable energy now.”