Chris Van Hollen

United States Senator for Maryland

Maryland Senators Urge Governor Hogan to Protect Marine Mammals and Atlantic Fisheries

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U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) have written to Governor Larry Hogan (R-Md.) urging him to protect marine mammals and Maryland’s fisheries from needless seismic surveying testing. Earlier this month, NOAA proposed Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHA), permits necessary to conduct damaging seismic surveying using airgun blasts that repeat every ten seconds, for 24 hours a day, for weeks at a time. Oil and gas companies conduct this surveying to find new oil and gas reserves. Under the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), States have the authority to request a review of these permits to ensure that they align with the Coast Management Plan that Maryland’s Department of National Resources developed.

“We strongly urge you to direct Maryland Department of Natural Resources to formally request a CZMA consultation from the National Marine Fisheries Service due to the likely negative impacts the proposed geological and geophysical activity would have on Maryland’s marine species and coastal economies.” the Senators wrote in their letter. “As a coastal state with one of the world’s largest estuaries in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland’s economic health especially relies on a healthy ocean. Each year, roughly 90,000 jobs and more than $5.4 billion in GDP comes from our ocean economy.”

The seismic surveying injures and causes deafness to marine mammals and disorients other marine species. By the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s own study, this surveying could injure 138,000 marine mammals.

The comment period is open to the public until July 6, 2017.  Marylanders can do their part to help protect the Bay and the ocean by submitting comments to the proposed seismic surveying here.

The full text of the letter is below and can be found at this link.

Dear Governor Hogan:

On June 6, 2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) noticed five proposed Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHA) associated with surveying for oil and gas reserves off the coast of Maryland. It has come to our attention that some of the permits for seismic airgun blasting under review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have not yet undergone the statutorily mandated Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) consultation. As the United States Senators from Maryland, we are writing to strongly urge you to request an opportunity to review these applications, as allowed by law.[1]

Under CZMA, BOEM must provide a consistency determination to the relevant State agency responsible for the State’s coastal zone management program at least 90 days before final approval of federal activity.[2] In this case, BOEM, in coordination with NMFS, must provide sufficient information to the Maryland Department of the Environment that the permitted activity is consistent with Maryland’s coastal zone management program before approving the seismic permits since the proposed areas for seismic airgun blasting includes all of Maryland’s coastline.

As our State’s governor, it is imperative that you become involved in this process not only because Maryland has a duty to assert its legal state rights under the CZMA, but also because the proposed geological and geophysical (G&G) activities would have significant impacts on our coastal resources, including commercial fisheries and marine mammals. Numerous studies show the detrimental impacts seismic airgun blasting has on marine life, including fish stocks and marine mammals. For example, a 2017 study conducted off North Carolina’s coast by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Duke University, and NOAA found that, during seismic surveying, the abundance of reef-fish declined by 78 percent.[3] Disruption of healthy ocean ecosystems in the region will affect the fishing businesses, restaurants, and visitors that flock to our coastal communities. According to federal government’s own estimates, seismic testing in the Atlantic could injure 138,000 whales and dolphins and disturb millions more.[4]

Harm to coastal resources could negatively impact our fisheries and tourism industries, which depend on healthy ocean ecosystems. Tourism, fishing, and recreation generate over $95 billion in gross domestic product and support nearly 1.4 million jobs annually. As a coastal state with one of the world’s largest estuaries in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland’s economic health especially relies on a healthy ocean. Each year, roughly 90,000 jobs and more than $5.4 billion in GDP comes from our ocean economy.

There is strong public opposition to both this seismic surveying and offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. An alliance representing over 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families, more than 120 East Coast municipalities, and over 1,200 elected officials have publically opposed seismic airgun blasting and/or offshore drilling in the Atlantic. The South and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Department of Defense have also expressed concern about the compatibility of their activities with ongoing oil and gas operations.

The proposed seismic surveying is an unlisted activity in Maryland’s approved coastal management program. Therefore, the CZMA indicates that States have 30 days from the time of notice (ending July 6, 2017) to request a CZMA consultation regarding a consistency determination with Maryland’s Coastal Management Plan. We strongly urge you to direct Maryland Department of Natural Resources to formally request a CZMA consultation from the National Marine Fisheries Service due to the likely negative impacts the proposed geological and geophysical activity would have on Maryland’s marine species and coastal economies. Our staffs are ready to aide Maryland should you need support.

Sincerely,

 

cc:          Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General of Maryland

               Mark Belton, Secretary Maryland Department of Natural Resources

 

[1] 16 U.S.C. § 1456(c)(1)(C); 15 C.F.R. § 930.41(a)

[2] 16 U.S.C. § 1456(c)(1)(C); 15 C.F.R. § 930.36(b)(1)

[3] Avery B. Paxton, J. Christopher Taylor, Douglas P. Nowacek, Julian Dale, Elijah Cole, Christine M. Voss, Charles H. Peterson, Seismic survey noise disrupted fish use of a temperate reef, Marine Policy, Volume 78, April 2017, Pages 68-73, ISSN 0308-597X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2016.12.017.

[4] Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). (2012). Atlantic OCS Proposed Geological and Geophysical Activities Mid and South Atlantic Planning Areas Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (DPEIS), Vol II Figures, Tables and Appendices. Table 4-10. pg. 101. Annual Level A Takes Estimates from Seismic Airgun Sources Using 180-dB Criteria for Marine Mammal Species during the Project Period (2012-2020). (Note: 138,000 injuries reflect the sum of Level A takes from 2012-2020.)

Issues: 

Washington, D.C. Office

110 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone (202) 224-4654
Fax: (202) 228-0629

State Offices

Montgomery County Office

111 Rockville Pike
Suite 960
Rockville, MD  20850
Phone (301) 545-1500
Fax (301) 545-1512

Baltimore Office

1900 North Howard Street, Suite 100
Baltimore, MD  21218
Phone (667) 212-4610
Fax (301) 545-1512

Prince George's County Office (opening soon)

1101 Mercantile Lane
Suite 210
Largo, MD  20774

State Offices

Western Maryland Office

32 West Washington Street
Suite 203
Hagerstown, MD  21740
Phone (301) 797-2826
Fax (301) 797-2241

 

Anne Arundel & Southern Maryland Office

60 West Street
Suite 107
Annapolis, MD  21401
Phone (410) 263-1325

Eastern Shore Office (opening soon)

204 Cedar Street
Suite 200C
Cambridge, MD  21613