Clean Ocean Action

Updates on Atlantic Ocean Oil Drilling

April 2012:

April 2012 Seismic Survey Hearings


Clean Ocean Action and our amazing supporters made the News!  Check out coverage of our anti-oil-drilling advocacy here:



  • The nation’s shorelines are vacation destinations for millions of Americans each year, and the economic lifeline for coastal communities fueled by tourism and commercial and recreational fishing.  
  • Currently, there are no oil and gas leases in existence off the Mid-Atlantic Coast (from Block Island, RI to Cape Hatteras, South Carolina), for good reason.  Studies show that there is not much oil or gas available.  
  • According to a federal agency, the entire Mid-Atlantic offshore region’s natural gas would only last about three months, using current national consumption rates. Is this small amount of gas worth risking so much?
  • Drilling activities create excessive amounts of waste and debris.
  • Seismic surveys performed for drilling are harmful to marine mammals.
  • The Proposed Lease Area off the coast of Virginia is currently utilized by the U.S. Navy to conduct weapons training and live ammunition exercises that include surface, subsurface and air activities. The proposed activity would be in direct conflict with ongoing Naval operations as has been formally opposed by the U.S. Department of Defense back in April 2006.


  • The waters off New Jersey and New York are home to more than 300 species of fish, nearly 350 species of birds, 5 species of sea turtles, and many marine mammals, with over 20 species of whales and dolphins, 1 species of porpoise, and four species of seals frequent this region.
  • Recreational and commercial fisheries provide enormous economic benefits both in food production and recreational activities.  In New Jersey, annual commercial landings of finfish and shellfish generate $100 million to the New Jersey economy annually.  New York’s commercial fishing industry contributed a total of $149.6 million to the state’s economy and directly employed approximately 10,500 New Yorkers in 1999.
  • According to the American Sportfishing Association, there are 805,870 recreational anglers in New Jersey and 1,549,637 in New York.  In 2003, recreational fishing brought $724,634,011 in retail sales to the state of New Jersey.  Also, recreational fishing accounts for 12,021 jobs in New Jersey, with salaries and wages totaling $328,359,434.  As for New York, recreational fishing generated $1,116,861,525 in retail sales in 2003 and accounted for 17,083 jobs and $503,486,172 in salaries and wages.
  • Travel and tourism in New Jersey contributes $32 billion in economic activities each year and generates 416,000 jobs (the second largest private sector employer).  The four coastal counties – Atlantic, Cape May, Ocean, and Monmouth – account for more than 72% or $21.6 billion in annual economic activity in New Jersey.  In New York, coastal tourism contributed $2.9 billion to the overall economy in 1995 (the most recent numbers accessible), comprising 62.5% of the state economy.


Next 5 Year 2012-2017 Plan

The DOI will be holding more meetings and is asking for comments on the next 5 year plan for 2012-2017.  The Mid- and South Atlantic regions are included in this plan.  Comments are due June 30 to:  Mr. J. F. Bennett, Chief, Branch of Environmental Assessment, Minerals Management Service, 381 Elden Street, MS 4042, Herndon, Virginia 20170, or online at:  More info. at: 



To read COA's comments, click here.


Stay tuned for an opportunity to submit your own comments.

Virginia Lease Sale Activities Postponed...but Sale May Not Be Delayed

On May 7th, 2010, the Dept. of Interior (DOI) postponed the proposed meetings and activities for the lease sale off Virginia.  However, the DOI has been reported as stating that suspension of these activities may not delay the eventual lease sale, which is a concern.  The Pentagon recently released a report objecting drilling activities in the VA lease which would significantly interfere with military activities.

To read COA's comments, click here.


Oil and Gas Drilling & Impacts Close to Home?

For the first time in 25 years, drilling plans are underway in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia.  Pollution resulting from such activity will likely affect New Jersey and New York waters. 


In December, the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) held a workshop to identify research gaps and needs for assessing environmental impacts associated with the proposed offshore Virginia Lease Sale for oil and gas drilling.  The MMS announced plans to use $2 million in taxpayer money toward three studies: a Mid-Atlantic ocean circulation model, an inventory of marine archaeology, and an assessment of oil and gas infrastructure in the Atlantic region.  Companies are reportedly discussing building an oil pipeline from Virginia to New Jersey to the existing infrastructure in NY/NJ Harbor. 


For the proposed Mid-Atlantic Oil and Gas Lease Sale off Virginia, COA submitted comments on behalf of many NJ environmental organizations to the MMS on a Call for Information and Interests and a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.  Comments on VA Lease Sale.  Addendum to Comments.


Also in December, at a Virginia Beach town meeting that included presentations about energy issues and options for the region, including offshore oil and gas drilling, Virginia State Delegate Joe Bouchard (D-83), who is also a former Commanding Officer at the Norfolk Naval Station, said the federally proposed lease area for drilling off Virginia presents a high risk as it is located within the U.S. Department of Defense’s VACAPES military training area.  Bouchard showed a vivid picture taken in August of a burning rocket falling to the ocean within VACAPES.  A NASA rocket launched from Virginia facilities veered off course and NASA officials had it destroyed.  This example raises the question, “What if a drilling rig was in the path of the explosion and debris?”  Bouchard proved that drilling in military exercise zones do not mix. 

New Federal Agency Plan to Drill

Federal agencies are planing for drilling off the nation’s coast with the proposed new Five-Year Offshore Oil and Gas Plan (2010-2015) by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) of the U.S. Department of Interior.  For COA’s comments opposing the Plan click here

Offshore Oil & Gas Drilling Looms

In 2006, a federal plan that would open areas off the nation’s coast to oil and gas drilling was proposed and available for public comment.  Contrary to the current Congressional Moratorium and Presidential Executive Order, both of which prohibit oil and gas exploration and production along the entire east coast, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) included an area off Virginia’s coast (within 75 miles of NJ’s coast) in its Proposed 5-Year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2007-2012.  This area, called the Mid-Atlantic Planning Area, is located off the Eastern Shore, including Chincoteage National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore.

In addition to the environmental and economic issues (see facts and risks below), two additional reasons to not drill for oil and gas in this area were identified:

  • If allowed, extraction of oil and/or gas is expected by 2030.  Based on MMS data for 2030 consumption rates, this area only contains enough recoverable oil and gas to last 1.8 and 3.4 days, respectively. 
  • The US Department of Defense opposes oil and gas development in this area.    The US Navy conducts training and war exercises within the proposed area that utilize several different forms of live ammunition, including gunnery exercises, rockets, bombs, and antisubmarine rocket and torpedo firing.  Naval training exercises and oil and gas activities are mutually exclusive and in direct conflict, and create a substantial risk to oil and gas exploration and production activities, and dramatically increases the likelihood of a major oil spill or other catastrophe.  

Several elected officials expressed their opposition to the plan at a public information meeting hosted by MMS in November in Atlantic City, NJ.  At this meeting, staff members of US Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) presented comments strongly opposing the plan, as did staff members of Representatives Jim Saxton (R-3), Frank LoBiondo (R-2), Chris Smith (R-4), and NJ Governor Jon Corzine.  Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) submitted written comments.

Click on the incorporated links to read and review Clean Ocean Action's submitted comments on the Program Plan and associated Draft Environmental Impact Statement.


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