Sea Act good for oil and gas companies, bad for marine mammals

October 31 2017

Well, Congress is back at it again with another attempt to put industry demands ahead of protecting wildlife. Unfortunately, this seems to be the prevailing theme these days with Congress, so at least they’re consistent… 

Let me introduce you to the SEA (Streamlining Environmental Approvals) Act of 2017, or H.R. 3133. The goal of this bill is to “streamline” the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) by altering the regulatory process of how Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) to marine mammals are reviewed and authorized when various industrial activities (mainly during seismic exploration for offshore oil and gas) are proposed within US waters. 

Specifically, the most notable issue with altering IHA provisions would be that the proposed seismic exploration occurs within the breeding and calving grounds of the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale. With a population dangerously close to tipping into “unrecoverable” status (approx. 450), combined with the extremely high number of mortalities this year, the absolute worst thing that could happen to right whales now would be to weaken IHAs. Evidently, some legislators feel that it is just too difficult for industry to abide by basic, common sense protection measures when operating around critical marine mammal habitat.

Make no mistake; this proposed bill is an oil and gas industry wish list that would gut many of the legal standards by which IHAs are issued and prevents almost any type of mitigation strategy to reduce impacts to marine mammals during industry operations. 

Below are a few examples of how MMPA protection provisions would be altered:

  • removal of current procedure to restrict industry activities to a specific geographic range
  • automatic extension of existing permits after only an absurdly unrealistic timeframe of 14 days for determination if extension is even warranted  
  • not requiring any baseline assessment before or long-term monitoring of cumulative impact after the activity has occurred 
  • removal of the permit condition that any activity must have the “least practicable impact” on marine mammals 

Marine mammals need these protections in order to survive and flourish against the ever increasing industrialization of our oceans.

Please join us in making sure the MMPA remains an essential bedrock environmental law. Let your U.S. Representative know that he or she should stand up for marine mammals and their habitat and oppose H.R. 3133!  

-- CT Harry, IFAW Campaign Officer, Marine Conservation

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