Environmental Groups Hold Public Forum on Proposed Seismic Testi - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Environmental Groups Hold Public Forum on Proposed Seismic Testing in Delaware

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LEWES, Del. - National, regional and local environmental groups came together Wednesday night to answer questions and call for action on possible seismic testing and offshore drilling in the mid-Atlantic.

The M.E.R.R. Institute, the Surfrider Foundation and the Assateague Coastal Trust joined OCEANA to discuss President Donald Trump's executive order to expand domestic oil and gas activities. Before any drilling can occur, seismic testing must take place. In that process, seismic air guns are towed through the water and shoot dynamite-like blasts of compressed air miles under the seafloor to find the location of possible oil and gas deposits. John Weber with the Surfrider Foundation says those blasts hurt the animals who call the ocean home.

"You have to imagine these animals, they make their living by hearing. That's how they get around, that's how they find food, that's how they find mates," he tells WBOC. "So it's really important that we're not blasting their environment with these seismic blasts and it's quite intensive. It can be like 24/7 blasts for days at a time."

Suzanne Thurman with the M.E.R.R. Institute says affecting the animals would eventually affect onshore activities in Delaware as well.

"It can affect marine mammals and other marine species by causing injury, death, separation, loss of prey, and that starts to take a toll on the overall ecosystem," she says. "So it will start to take a toll on the attractiveness of the area. Since the tourist economy is so enormous here and many people source their incomes from that, it is going to take a direct impact on residents."

The proposed testing and drilling was proposed by the Obama administration, but shut down after strong opposition from groups across the country, including those who hosted the public forum. President Trump's executive order re-opened the Department of the Interior's review of five applications related to the project, which is currently in the public comment phase. President Trump has said the drilling will decrease dependence on foreign oil and increase jobs. Rich King with Delaware Surf Fishing says some fishermen believe potential drilling will increase their fishing opportunities, but King says that's not the case.

"They want to fish oil rigs like they do in the gulf. These are not going to be oil rigs...these are going to be large, floating oil platforms that are kept in place by anchors and engines," he says. "There's not going to be fish anywhere near these things. If there is, you're not going to be allowed anywhere near these things [because of] homeland security and all that."

According to the Assateague Coastal Trust, all the oil in the proposed drilling areas--stretching from Delaware to Florida--could fuel the entire United States for a year. But it will take 19 and a half years to extract it. Lewes Mayor Ted Becker spoke at the forum and urged everyone to contact their federal representatives and voice their opposition once again. 

"I think all of us here and most of us who live along the coast can understand that a healthy ocean transcends our differences," he told the crowd. "And in fact, unites us." 

Public comments on the project are being accepted until July 6 and can be done so here.

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