Clean Ocean Action

Seismic Threats Facing the New York Bight

Our region depends on clean ocean economies.  Fishing, boating, diving, swimming, tourism, and the livelihoods these industries support represent billions of dollars annually.  Seismic airgun blasting, and the oil and gas drilling that in some cases can follow, has no place in our ocean due to the danger it poses to our delicately balanced and already threatened ecosystems. 

Seismic Airgun Blasting for Oil and Gas Exploration 

For three decades, the COAlition along with a national network has worked to successfully keep oil and gas activities in the mid-Atlantic region at bay.  Regrettably, after years of being under a bipartisan drilling moratorium supported by Presidents and Congress alike, the Atlantic Ocean is back in play, and energy companies are looking to start drilling as soon as possible.  Exploration could begin as soon as 2015 with seismic testing being used to look for potential oil and gas deposits.

Fortunately, COA fosters strong bipartisan federal and state opposition to oil and gas activities off the New York/New Jersey coast and organizations, businesses, and citizens are ready to rally and take action to save our coast and marine life.  This pressure has given our region a temporary "amnesty" from the worst oil threats by excluding NY and NJ from oil drilling.  Of course, risks remain from seismic testing and oil drilling anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean off the US coast, since the blasts of seismic airguns can be heard for hundreds of miles and any oil spills occurring in the mid or south Atlantic risk being carried northward to our shores by the Gulf Stream.  For this reason, COA continues to work with a national network of organizations unified against the development of oil and gas resources in the Atlantic Ocean.

Scientific Seismic Airgun Blasting: Different Purpose, Same Technology

Although widely used by the oil and gas industry, seismic testing is also used by researchers to map buried sediments.  Such scientific seismic testing became a priority issue for COA in the spring of 2014 when we learned of a research study proposed for the summer just 15 miles off Barnegat Bay.  Researchers from Rutgers University, Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and the University of Texas planned to send piercingly loud seismic blasts into the ocean for weeks during the time of peak marine life presence and commercial and recreational activity off the Jersey Shore.  COA was very concerned about the potential repercussions of seismic activity on marine life, including threatened and endangered species, as well as coastal economies such as fishing and tourism.  To oppose the project, COA mobilized an array of groups with a vested interest in a clean and healthy ocean, held press conferences up and down the Jersey Shore, and provided content for stories published by many local and regional news outlets.  COA also leveraged support from members of all levels of government, who acted on the federal level by challenging the lenient federal permitting process, on the state level by taking the research proponents to court, and on the local level by rallying opposition and passing resolutions opposing seismic testing.  Concerned citizens near and far signed COA’s online petition, which to date has garnered nearly 20,000 signatures (add your name here!).  Ultimately, the study was put on hold due to the collective action of many voices raised in protest.  But the fight isn't over.  Rutgers and the others are back for the summer of 2015 to do that study, so we need to keep up the momentum!  Fortunately, with a strong coalition established, COA is now better positioned than ever to fight back against future proposals for seismic testing off our shores.

Click here to download COA's Fact Sheet on the above study.

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