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Beyer, Smith introduce legislation to protect marine life, coastal economies

Don BeyerReps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced the Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection Act, which would protect marine life and coastal economies which depend on it by banning seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean.

“The seismic pulses from airgun blasts threaten the aquatic species many coastal communities depend on, including the majestic North Atlantic right whale, which sadly is on the verge of extinction,” said Rep. Beyer. “Marine life and ocean biodiversity are essential not only to coastal environments, but to local and regional tourism, recreation, and fishing industries. That is why elected leaders, business owners, and local communities in every state on the Atlantic seaboard oppose offshore drilling and seismic blasting. Congress should listen to them and pass this bill.”

Petroleum companies use seismic blasting in their surveying process, but the practice has significant, adverse effects on marine species, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management recently renewed permitting for seismic airgun blasting after the Obama Administration a moratorium on blasting and drilling in the Atlantic. The Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection Act would halt the practice.

“Seismic airgun blasting disrupts our fragile marine ecosystems, and is a first step in offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling which significantly threatens our commercial fishing industry and coastline,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). “We must continue to push bipartisan legislation to prevent seismic airgun blasting, and work to protect our coastal waters, beaches and wetlands and all whose livelihood depends upon them.”

Natural Resources Committee members yesterday got a demonstration of the harmful effects of seismic blasting in a hearing yesterday at which Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) set off an 120 dB airhorn, and then pointed out that the sound generated by seismic blasting is 16,000 times as loud and carries for as much as 2,500 miles. Beyer, who received a waiver to participate in the hearing, followed Cunningham’s point up with lengthy questioning of a NOAA Administrator about the effects from such blasting on marine life.

Congress has expressed bipartisan opposition to oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean in recent years, citing environmental consequences and opposition from coastal communities and military leaders. The ASAP Act had dozens of cosponsors representing nearly every state on the Atlantic seaboard in the previous session of Congress. Text of the bill is available here.