Seismic Testing and Oil Drilling

The March 15 announcement from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that the Federal government will no longer pursue opening our Eastern Seaboard to offshore oil and gas drilling is the result of strident efforts from a host of diverse groups and leaders from Maine to Georgia to Florida.

“We heard from many corners that now is not the time to offer oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic coast,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in the Department’s statement. “When you factor in conflicts with national defense, economic activities such as fishing and tourism, and opposition from many local communities, it simply doesn’t make sense to move forward with any lease sales in the coming five years.”

Through resolutions and letters, more than 110 towns and cities along our Atlantic coast formally opposed seismic testing and oil and gas drilling in our near shore waters. They were joined in opposition by hundreds of businesses and economic development groups, such as local Chambers of Commerce, development and tourism boards, homebuilder and homeowner associations, and fishery management councils. In listening to the concerns of local officials, business leaders and concerned citizens, Congressional members from both sides of the aisle, as well as bi-partisan delegations from every state legislature on the East Coast, stood strong in opposition – opposition which, for many, may prove unpopular with those who ensured their elections.

Educating the many diverse groups and bi-partisan leaders on the dangers posed by offshore drilling, as well as encouraging opposition through phone calls, emails and letter writing, were hundreds of conservation groups, including the Georgia Conservancy and other organizations in our state. Our voices, and collectively the voices of our members and supporters, were heard.

North Atlantic right whale and calf (GA DNR)

North Atlantic right whale and calf (GA DNR)

The Georgia Conservancy envisions a healthy resilient and diverse coastal ecosystem that can endure natural and human disturbances, continue to perform its functions, and support self-sustaining populations of native fish, birds, wildlife and plants. The health of our salt marshes, which comprise nearly one-third of those found on the east coast, and the health of our open waters, which are home to many threatened species, including the North Atlantic right whale, would be without a doubt compromised by the disturbance brought by seismic testing and oil and gas drilling.

“We are more than pleased that drilling in our fragile offshore waters is no longer on the table,” says Georgia Conservancy President Robert Ramsay. “Thanks to the work of concerned citizens, local officials and business leaders along our coast, and from a host of organizations that work for the protection of our natural resources, Georgia’s coastal ecosystems, along with the species, natural processes and economies that rely upon them, will be free from the threat of seismic testing and potentially disastrous oil spills – free from a disaster not unlike that which our neighbors along the Gulf of Mexico experienced just a few short years ago.”

The risks of off shore drilling far outweigh the reward.