Governor Cooper Leads Bipartisan Effort to Oppose Seismic Testing and Offshore Drilling Trump Administration Approves Offshore Airgun Use, But Governors Urge Protection of Our Coast


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 today 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. “These activities pose an unacceptable and unnecessary threat to our coastal ecosystems and coastal economies.”

Today’s letter was signed by Governor Cooper and the following governors: 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.

In a letter sent today, the governors 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 opens the door to offshore drilling that threatens an entire way of life along our coast,” Gov. 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.”

"I'm disappointed the Trump administration is continuing this push in the face of overwhelming public opposition and the significant threats posed to Virginia's economy and environment," said Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. "I'll continue fighting to ensure no drilling occurs off Virginia's coast."

“Seismic testing and damaging fossil-fuel drilling along the Atlantic Coast would have devastating, irreversible effects to the economy and natural resources,” said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. “New Jersey has continuously voiced our clear opposition to offshore drilling, including the signing of bipartisan legislation to block oil companies from drilling in state waters. We remain committed to protecting the state’s shoreline and the health and safety of our coastal communities.”

“Drilling in the Atlantic would pose significant threats to Delaware’s natural resources and our economy,” said Delaware Governor John Carney. “I am proud to stand with fellow Atlantic state governors in opposition to seismic testing and drilling for oil and gas off our coasts. There’s too much at risk for Delaware and the Atlantic Seaboard to allow this to go unchallenged.”

“Rhode Islanders know that as the Ocean State, our coastal ecosystem is vital to our environmental and economic security,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “Seismic airgun testing poses a threat to both — and opens a path for harmful offshore drilling.”

The full letter is available here.

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. Hundreds of tourism associations, chambers of commerce, convention and visitors bureaus, businesses, trade groups, elected officials and local governments have formally opposed seismic testing and offshore drilling.

The Cooper Administration remains committed to protecting North Carolina from the threat of offshore drilling. Earlier this year, Gov. Cooper urged Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to give coastal residents additional time to voice concerns about offshore drilling proposals. In 2017, Gov. Cooper announced that he and Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan would submit comments in opposition to oil and gas leasing for offshore drilling along North Carolina’s coast. Last year, the N.C. Division of Coastal Management also asked four companies to submit additional information about seismic testing plans because their proposals failed to consider the latest scientific studies on harmful impacts.