Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Obama Administration Currently Planning for Future Expansion of Offshore Oil & Gas Drilling

                Right now, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is formulating a new plan for offshore oil and gas drilling. This federal plan will be in effect from 2017 to 2022, and will determine which areas will be made available for oil drilling off US coasts. The current 2012-2017 plan restricts drilling to parts of Alaska and the waters of the western Gulf of Mexico. BOEM is now proposing to add the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts to the new five year plan, as well as the eastern Gulf and additional areas off Alaska. The oil industry views this proposal as a way to increase business, and therefore industry representatives and lobbyists have submitted thousands of comments to BOEM in support of expanding the areas open to oil drilling. Their efforts are further encouraged by the Obama Administration’s decision to conduct a seismic survey in the Atlantic. Results from this survey, which will inevitably harm and possibly kill countless marine mammals and invertebrates, could pinpoint natural gas and oil deposits along the continental shelf, thus inviting drilling to take place. The period to submit comments to BOEM on the proposed 2017-2022 plan closed on August 15. Unfortunately, it appears that more comments were submitted in support of the proposed plan than against it.
                Opening up oil drilling to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts not only steers the focus of the nation away from developing more sustainable energy practices, but also comes with the risk of catastrophic damage to coastal, marine, and human environments. The daily operations of offshore rigs results in the dumping of toxic metals and carcinogens into the ocean. Produced water, which is often contaminated with oil, is also discharged from rigs daily.
Perhaps the largest environmental concern in regard to offshore drilling is oil spills. Oil spills contaminate sediment, smother and kill wildlife, and the pollution remains in the ecosystem for years afterwards. In 2007, a study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) found that over 25,000 gallons of oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was still caught in Alaskan sand. We have not yet developed effective oil spill response methods, made ever more evident by the events following the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill which poured oil into the ocean for 87 days. A spill such as this has negative effects on coastal economies as well. During the spill, NOAA declared 19% of the entire Gulf a no fishing zone, greatly affecting the seafood and recreational industries. Tourism during this period also dropped at drastic rates. Recently, a U.S. District Judge ruled that BP acted with gross negligence leading to the spill. Studies continue to be released that document long term negative impacts to marine life and the health of people exposed to the spill and its aftermath.
                The Atlantic coast has been under a drilling moratorium for decades and changing that now, when the need for sustainable energy sources is at its highest and the marine environment is in its most vulnerable state yet, does not make sense.

News articles about the harmful effects of the BP Gulf oil spill:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Surfers Unite for a Clean Ocean!

Photo credit: Ryan Struck

Surfers and surfing groups have always been a key component of the COAlition and big supporters of COA's work.  August has seen support from the surfing world on both coasts.

Clean Ocean Action board member John Grossarth was instrumental in connecting COA with the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA), based in Laguna Niguel, CA.  SIMA provides grant opportunities to organizations dedicated to ocean protection, and COA was honored to be one of the groups named as a SIMA Foundation beneficiary.  Funding provided by SIMA has helped advance COA's water quality protection initiatives that ensure surfers, swimmers, and everyone else who enjoys a day at the beach or on the water can do so safely.  COA was also invited to SIMA's 25th annual Waterman's Ball, held on August 9th in recognition of those who have contributed to the surf industry and marine protection.  Long-time COA supporters Doug and Sibila Hopper, who live in California, attended on behalf of the organization.

Recognition of 2014 Honorees. From left to right: Hobie Alter, Ted Danson, Paul Naude, Rusty Preisendorfer and Tom Carroll.

Rusty Preisendorfer with Doug and Sibila Hopper

Ted Danson and Sibila Hopper

And on the east coast: Eastern Surf Magazine, based in Florida, recently published an article on seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.  The article quotes COA and gives tips on how individuals can get involved in building opposition to seismic testing and offshore drilling!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Science Behind the Green Slime

Save Barnegat Bay!

Algae blooms and fish kills have been making headlines recently, from the Great Lakes to the Shark River. Although these events occur naturally, due to changes in weather or season, they are usually a symptom of too many people doing things that overwhelm the ecosystem.  For example, too many lawns being fertilized too much. COA calls this “people pollution," but others call it non-point source pollution. Littering is another example.  

Too much of anything can cause problems. Algae blooms, for instance, are often caused by an overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus in the system the active ingredients in fertilizer.  

Any excess fertilizer applied to a property that doesn't seep into the soil will likely be washed away by rain, down the streets and into storm drains, and end up in our waterways. These same nutrients that make grass grow also work on algae. Too many nutrients in a condensed area can easily overwhelm the whole system and cause many problems, such as fish kills. This process is called eutrophication, and is a common coastal issue.

Barnegat Bay is a tragic example of a waterway with people pollution issues.  Rutgers scientists have reported that sensitive seagrass species are declining, and have documented other signs that the bay’s health is in jeopardy. In a recent article by KirkMoore in the Asbury Park Press, researchers reported that 25% of the watershed in Barnegat Bay is lawn, and population has skyrocketed from about 200,000 to 580,000 over the last 40 years….and that does not include summer visitors.

Some Groups like COA, Save Barnegat Bay, the American Littoral Society, and Pinelands Preservation Alliance were key in passing NJ’s fertilizer law to help address this issue.  But more must be done. Under the Clean Water Act, waterways that have become polluted can be declared  “impaired” which would then trigger legal requirements for the state to act to reduce pollution sources.

You can help! Support Save Barnegat Bay’s efforts to have the waterway declared impaired by signing their petition. Also, become a BarnegatBay “Bay Buddy” and use environmentally friendly landscaping practices. Visit our website for more information on ways to get involved. Whether you live in Barnegat Bay or not, these actions will improve all waterways.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Turtle Treasures

Written by: Scott Thompson

Last week (week of July 14th) during a “liquid lunch” surf session in Sea Bright, I observed a mid - sized (12 to 14” shell size) sea turtle cruising within the lineup hopefully enjoying his or her “lunch “ as well. Needless to say I was thrilled with the visual and saw the turtle multiple times in the area during the hour or so in the water enjoying the water more than ever.

This is the first time in my 49 years of surfing that I have ever seen a turtle this close to the shore here in the Atlantic. Is it a good thing? I don’t know, maybe they should be further offshore, however I can indeed attest to the fact that it looked healthy and happy swimming vigorously in and around the breaking surf.

Will there be more? Let’s hope so. However, with all the pressure from outside interests to “explore” the oceans for “data” how can that disruption be positive for the turtles and their environment. Now more than ever we need the CLEAN OCEAN ZONE. Why? Be COZ ! The turtles and all marine life need us to advocate for them so the “data” gathers cannot drive them from their habitat for the good of a few pennies on someone’s spread sheet and account balance.

Call, email and connect with all your legislators and tell them the President and his Cabinet do NOT represent the people. They represent special interests that will sell out our natural ocean resources for a dollar. Is it really worth it in the end?