Great news, right? Yes. But there's a catch; several actually.
First, the President announced expansions to oil drilling operations in the Gulf and in the Arctic Ocean. According to the Department of Interior: “the Proposed Program includes lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas,” areas of ocean that many environmental groups in the region warn are poor choices for energy development – there are no nearby marine ports (e.g., there are no oil-spill response or Coast Guard boats), and seasonal and weather conditions exacerbate risks of catastrophe.
Second, the President issued the following statement:
“There remain complex issues relating to potentially conflicting uses, including those of the Department of Defense. As the oil and gas resource potential in the Mid- and South Atlantic planning areas is not well understood, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is moving forward to expeditiously to facilitate resource evaluation in these areas, including conducting a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement relating to seismic surveys in the Atlantic.”
The federal government, therefore, plans on seismically surveying the Atlantic Ocean – sending pulses of sound waves at high decibels over thousands of miles of ocean habitat – in search of the most readily-available oil resources. These activities are tied to significant impacts on marine life, affecting everything from migration patterns of whales to the feeding behavior of fish. To top it all off, these surveys are publicly-funded expeditions that pinpoint resources that, perhaps in 2017, will be given to private companies to develop and sell for profit!
COA Staff Scientist, Dr. Heather Saffert, has been studying the impacts of seismic surveys on marine life and the coastal ecosystem and will be developing robust comments and reviews on the issue.
Clean Ocean Action has been working to keep the Atlantic Ocean seismic-survey-free for years, and will continue to do so. The “Draft” impact assessment of these surveys is expected out in the spring.
Third, and finally, while the President has decided to not drill for oil in the Atlantic, Congress can still overrule this decision. In fact, the House of Representatives has already passed a bill that would do just that.
(a series of bills we talked about here: http://cleanoceanaction.blogspot.com/2011/04/offshore-oil-takes-center-stage-in-bad.html)
This week, the House has two Congressional hearings on these issues, and a few more are expected. Stay tuned to COA for more information...