More than 50 U.S. Congressmen are asking President Barack Obama not to allow oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of southern and mid-Atlantic states. The letter was signed by 55 Democrats and Republicans, including two Georgia Democrats, Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson.
In March, the Obama administration decided not to allow oil or gas drilling on the Atlantic coast, following vocal opposition from coastal communities and politicians -- though many politicians, including Georgia coastal Rep. Buddy Carter, did want to see the Atlantic opened up for drilling. Looking for oil and gas could still be an option. Companies are asking the federal government to grant them permits to conduct seismic testing, to try to learn what resources could be available.
The oil industry says that seismic surveys are safe. But environmental groups and some scientists say that it can hurt marine mammals, since it involves loud noise.
“Although a wide range of marine species will be negatively impacted by seismic airgun blasting such as commercial fish species, the North Atlantic right whale, one of the most endangered whales on the planet, is particularly vulnerable,” says the letter from lawmakers to the president.
The Congressmen also express concerns about the information that the seismic companies collect.
“Most seismic data are proprietary and are not shared with the public, local leaders, or federal elected officials,” the letter continues. “The conditions for data disclosure are extremely restrictive, if disclosure is allowed at all.”
The federal government is considering applications from a few companies that want to do the surveys, but has not yet decided if it will grant permits.