group of business leaders representing interests up and down the East
Coast, including chambers of commerce, restaurant associations,
commercial fishing groups and real estate organizations, are urging
President Obama to use a provision of federal law to try and
permanently block seismic surveying for oil and natural gas off the
Kies, president of the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce in Morehead
City, was part of a delegation from the newly formed Business Alliance
for Protecting the Atlantic Coast that met Monday with federal
officials in Washington. The group, which also included representatives
of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, hopes to get the president to
use his executive powers before leaving office to “withdraw from
disposition” any parts of the Atlantic outer continental shelf not
already leased for oil or gas drilling. The move, according to the
group, would create a permanent ban on offshore drilling that cannot be
alliance says seismic testing and any subsequent drilling, could put
fishing, tourism and recreation economies at risk. The businesses
oppose seismic testing and the industrialization that would come with
offshore drilling. The meetings in Washington were productive, Kies
“We had our stuff together,” Kies said Tuesday. “We had facts, we had figures.”
new group says more than 12,000 businesses and 400,000 commercial
fishing families are represented in a letter to the president calling
on him not to proceed with allowing seismic exploration. The letter
asks the Obama administration to deny all current seismic air gun
testing permits for oil and gas in the Atlantic.
Obama needs to finish the job protecting coastal economies and use his
authority to permanently protect the Atlantic Coast,” the group said
with Kies, the group that met with the Department of Interior and the
White House Council on Environmental Quality included:
- Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.
- Laura Wood-Habr, vice president of the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association and a restaurant co-owner.
- Vicki Clark, president of the Cape May, New Jersey, County Chamber of Commerce.
- Sandra Bundy, broker-in-charge, B&P Inc., a real estate development firm in Bennettsville, South Carolina.
- Karen Brown, president of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce.
- Pat Broom of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce and president of Phoenix Restoration, a general contractor.
- Tonya Bonitatibus, executive director of the Savannah Riverkeeper for Georgia and South Carolina.
Marhefka of Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, a commercial
fishermen’s association, and Abundant Seafood of Mount Pleasant, South
alliance says it is dedicated to protecting the long-term health and
economic vitality of the Atlantic seaboard through the responsible
stewardship of the coastal and ocean waters. The group contends
that seismic testing is a dangerous process that creates one of the
loudest manmade noises in the oceans. Those blasts threaten the ocean
ecosystem, on which nearly 1.4 million jobs on the East Coast rely –
jobs that create more than $95 billion in gross domestic product,
mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation, according to the group.
Obama administration earlier this year reversed its previous decision
to allow offshore drilling in the Atlantic. Coastal advocates worry the
Trump administration, once in office, could restart the process and add the Atlantic back to the next five-year plan.
nine alliance representatives were joined by three representatives of
Oceana, an international organization focused on oceans. Oceana has
also been working to prevent the expansion of U.S. offshore drilling.
were with the environmental group Oceana, who helped set up the
appointments. They said that it had gone as well as any other lobbying
they’d ever seen,” Kies said.
Knapp, of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, said
the groups held three meetings in Washington: one with Interior
Department and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, officials,
another with the White House Council on Environmental Quality and one
with Commerce Department officials.
a provision of the law that appears to give the president authority to
make a declaration that there will never be in the future any seismic
testing or drilling off the Atlantic coast,” Knapp said Wednesday.
groups want Obama to use Section 12(a) of the 1953 Outer Continental
Shelf Act to permanently protect much of the Atlantic from future
drilling. The provision, which grants presidential authority to remove
unleased lands of the outer continental shelf from consideration, has
been used in the past, including in 2014 to protect Bristol Bay,
Alaska, and in 2015 to protect parts of the Arctic Ocean.
said the tactic had been questioned, but the presidential authority had
never been challenged. It’s the best option available, he said.
advantage of it and let the courts decide, that’s what we’re asking
for,” Knapp said. “If we don’t do it, chances are pretty good we’re
going to see some seismic testing killing animals and scaring tourists
away. Even if there is some skepticism that we can’t do this, he
(Obama) should do this and let the challengers take it to court.
There’s no provision to rescind in this statute and that’s the key.”
There’s a new urgency, activists say, with the election of Donald Trump as president.
Democratic Party activist Tom Steyer is also using the tactic. Steyer’s
San Francisco-based NextGen Climate organization characterized the
effort as a way to stand up to Trump’s “dangerous agenda” of lifting
barriers to the fossil fuel industry.
environmentalists say the move could backfire, prompting Republicans to
repeal the provision so it can’t be used in the future.
American Petroleum Institute, a national trade association that
represents the country’s oil and natural gas industry, says the risks
of seismic exploration to marine life have been overstated. API says
seismic operators go to great lengths to prevent potential effects on
marine life. Steps include monitoring animal movement and behavior
patterns prior to exploration with areas of concern closed to seismic
surveys. The surveying process begins with a “soft-start” where the
intensity of the sound is gradually increased to full operational
levels to allow animals that may be sensitive to the noise to leave the
visual observers or acoustic monitoring devices detect sensitive marine
life in the vicinity at any time during the survey, then all operations
stop immediately and are restarted only when the area is clear,”
according to API.
says advancements in seismic technology have helped find, drill and
produce oil and natural gas with the least possible risks to the
But any new East Coast drilling would bring greater risks to the environment, Knapp said.
drilling procedure leaks,” Knapp said. “This is the most important
decision that will ever be made about the Atlantic coast. Once seismic
is allowed, drilling will be next. There’s no going back. Either
preserve the economy we all love or we’re going to become the Gulf
Coast with wells that leak and fish that die. That’s how important this
article is provided by Coastal Review Online, an online news service
covering North Carolina's coast. For more news, features, and
information about the coast, go to www.coastalreview.org.)