Moves to open the Atlantic coast to fossil fuel extraction

We have just submitted our comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the “Atlantic Geological and Geophysical Activities.” The proposals reviewed in the DEIS are for the exploration and mapping of the Mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf for oil and gas reservoirs, and for the installation of wind farms.

The DEIS includes three alternatives: Alternatives A and B are heavy on seismic exploration specific to oil and gas exploration. Alternative C has no oil and gas activities and focuses instead on wind and minerals extraction. The significant difference between Alternative A&B and Alternative C is in the permitting of seismic airgun surveys, which are a much louder noise source to probe into the deep ocean substrates (and are not required for the shallower surveys needed for wind farms).

Atlantic OCS Planning Area BoundariesIt is unfortunate (but not surprising) that as written the DEIS appears to pave the way for fossil fuel operations. We found many shortcomings in the modeling and assumptions made to justify the actions. In the 550 page document the assessment of “negligible” impact is claimed some 956 times although the “Take Tables” indicate that thousands to tens-of-thousands of marine mammals will be physically compromised over the course of the work.

Meanwhile the potential damage to fish and fisheries is “swept under the rug” using an outdated impact study on goldfish (a poor proxy for the hundreds of species of marine fish in the subject area), and the assumption that fish in the area have “habituated” to industrial noises and thus unlikely to be impacted. This is the first time I’ve seen this corny assertion, but it is consistent with other circular arguments found in the DEIS.

Our comments have pointed out these and other shortcomings found in the Draft EIS. It is a “draft,” so we hope that our comments, along with comments from our colleagues at NRDC, Earth Justice, and other conservation stakeholders will be addressed and corrected in the Final EIS.

If our comments are addressed properly it will be clear that neither Alternative A nor B will be permissible if the objective is to maintain a healthy and resilient habitat for Atlantic marine life.

If you would like to provide input to the DEIS, Ocean Hero Richard Charter has put up an informative webpage with all the links you need.