Important NRDC Victory: Industry, Environmental Groups Settle Seismic Lawsuit
THE AMAZON PINK DOLPHIN’S VOICE-19/07/2013
Industry, Environmental Groups Settle Seismic Lawsuit
The oil and gas industry will be required to provide additional protection for marine mammals, cease conducting airgun seismic surveys in certain areas of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and develop and test an alternative to field guns as part of a lawsuit settled on June 20.
In a June 2010 lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and oil and gas industry representatives, several environmental conservation groups claimed DOI failed to satisfy basic requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act in permitting seismic exploration in the U.S. Gulf, and failed to prepare and environmental impact statement, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said is necessary.
The groups – which include the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Gulf Restoration Network, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club — said that high-intensity airgun surveys used to gather seismic data was negatively impacting whale and dolphins. The groups also stated that the noise emitted from blasts of compressed air being released into the water every 10 to 12 seconds was almost as intense as dynamite.
The settlement of NRDC v. Jewell, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, will prohibit airgun blasting in biologically important areas such as DeSoto Canyon, which is critical for sperm whales and Bryde’s whales. Airgun blasting also will be prohibited in coastal waters during the main calving season for bottlenose dolphins.
The settlement also requires:
· Mandatory minimum separation distances between surveys
· Extension of the government’s existing mitigation measures to apply everywhere in the Gulf and to cover endangered manatees as well as whales
· Mandatory use of passive acoustic listening devices to detect and avoid marine mammals during times of reduced visibility
· A multi-year research and development project, to be undertaken by industry, to develop and field test an alternative to airguns known as marine vibroseis that could substantially reduce many of the environmental impacts of seismic activity
· A Bureau of Ocean Energy Management evaluation of new standards to ensure that airgun surveys are not unnecessarily duplicative and generate the least practicable amount of sound for a given project
“The settlement not only secures new protections for whales and dolphins harmed by deafening airguns, but also establishes a process for investigating alternatives to airgun surveys,” said Ellen Medline, associated attorney for the Sierra Club, in a June 20 statement. “As a result, the settlement not only delivers immediate benefits for Gulf marine mammals, but also takes the first step towards a long-term solution.”
Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations with the American Petroleum Institute, noted in a June 20 statement that the sound produced during seismic surveys compares in magnitude to many naturally occurring and other manmade ocean sound sources, including wave action, lightning strikes, marine life, and shipping. “Four decades of worldwide seismic surveying activity and scientific research on marine mammals have shown no evidence that sound from seismic activities has resulted in injury to any marine mammal species,” Milito noted, adding that the industry already employs a number of measures to reduce the risk of harm to marine mammals during seismic activity and committed to the settlement to continue these measures voluntarily even though they are not legally required.
API intervened on behalf of the federal government, along with the International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC), the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and the U.S. Oil & Gas Association.
Contrary to some media reports, the oil and gas industry has not agreed to halt seismic survey activities in large portion of the Gulf. Under the settlement agreement, permitting of seismic surveys in most of the Eastern Gulf Planning area will continue, said IAGC President Chip Gill in a June 21 press statement.
“There are a few designated areas of the eastern Gulf where for the next two and a half years permits will not be issued,” Gill said. “These are all areas where no lease sales are scheduled and where the prospective areas have recently been surveyed using modern surveying technology.”
Deal With Feds Will Protect Marine Life
(CN) – The U.S. government has given environmentalists some concessions to settle claims it failed to protect whales and dolphins from seismic air gun surveys in the Gulf of Mexico.
“As a result, the settlement not only delivers immediate benefits for Gulf marine mammals, but also takes the first step towards a long-term solution.”
Source: Courthouse News Service
Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras
Gustavo López Ospina
Pieter Jan Brouwer
Assistant: Emilia Romero
The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice is associated with the International Environmental Mission, a grass roots citizens movement created by Chilean Senator Juan Pablo Letelier.
SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer.