Gov. Cooper leads bipartisan effort to oppose seismic testing, offshore drilling

RALEIGH, N.C. – Following last month’s announcement that the Trump Administration authorized airgun use in waters off the East Coast, Governor Roy Cooper and a group of bipartisan governors urged Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to prohibit harmful seismic testing and offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As the governors of states on the Atlantic seaboard, we write to reiterate our strong opposition to seismic airgun surveys and oil and gas drilling off our coasts,” the governors wrote in a letter to Ross and Zinke. “These activities pose an unacceptable and unnecessary threat to our coastal ecosystems and coastal economies.”

Along with Cooper, the letter was signed by Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts; Governor John Carney of Delaware; Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York; Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland; Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut; Governor Henry McMaster of South Carolina; Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey; Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia; and Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island.

In November, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Fisheries department issued incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs) for seismic airgun surveys to five companies searching for oil and gas deposits in the Atlantic.

The decision follows months of vocal opposition from states along the East Coast, which have repeatedly urged the federal government to protect coastal tourism and fisheries by halting seismic testing and offshore drilling.

The letter sent to Ross and Zinke urged the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Commerce to deny all permit applications for seismic testing, exclude the waters off the East Coast from the 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for offshore drilling, avoid issuing further IHAs for seismic airgun surveys and prevent any future offshore drilling efforts in the Atlantic Ocean.

Seismic testing and offshore drilling pose significant economic and environmental threats to communities along the Atlantic Coast, which generate more than $98 billion in gross domestic product each year.

Seismic airgun blasts can deplete fish populations that are vital for commercial and recreational fishing industries, and offshore drilling increases the risk of catastrophic oil spills, which devastate marine life and tourism and hurt coastal economies.

“Seismic testing opens the door to offshore drilling that threatens an entire way of life along our coast,” Cooper said. “North Carolina’s economy, environment and unique coastal communities are too valuable to put at risk with little potential for long-term gain.”

To read the full letter, click here.

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