Stop seismic airgun blasting off our coast


As North Carolinians, we take pride in our beach communities and rely on a healthy marine environment to fuel our state’s economy. That’s why some fellow elected officials and I oppose seismic airgun blasting – the extremely loud and dangerous precursor to offshore drilling.

In 2014, I helped organize a letter to President Obama opposing seismic airgun blasting along the Atlantic Coast and was joined by 21 state legislators. Now, 69 state legislators join me in another letter of opposition – this time including our neighbors in South Carolina and Georgia.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration made the right call and reversed its plan to open the Mid- and South Atlantic to offshore drilling. But the administration is still considering issuing permits to the oil and gas industry to conduct seismic airgun blasting in the area.

Seismic airguns are towed behind ships, firing intense blasts every 10 to 12 seconds for weeks to months on end, in the hope of finding oil and gas deposits deep below the seabed. These blasts are so loud the noise can be heard up to 2,500 miles away and can be immensely harmful to marine life. The federal government estimates that as many as 138,000 whales and dolphins could be injured by this process and millions more could be disturbed. Seismic airgun blasting has also been shown to disturb fish, and could lead to a dramatic decrease in fish stocks in our waters.

Our state benefits from over 50,000 jobs in the tourism, recreation, and fishing industries, which generate close to $2.2 billion in annual revenue. My colleagues and I will not stand to see our constituents risk losing their livelihoods due to seismic airgun blasting and the drilling that would follow.

Municipalities, businesses, tourism boards, leading scientists and others are all fighting to keep our coast safe and prosperous. We know offshore exploration and drilling won’t be stopped unless we demand it. I call upon my fellow North Carolinians to join me and urge President Obama to cancel plans to pursue seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic. Let’s protect our coast once and for all; if not for ourselves, for future generations.

Harrison, a Democrat, is a state representative from Greensboro.