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Stop Congress From Gutting Whale And Dolphin Protection to the Core

| Mark J. Palmer
Topics: Cetacean Habitat

Oil Industry Legislation Will Open Our Oceans to New Drilling and Noise Assault by Weakening MMPA and ESA Wildlife Protections

The House Natural Resources Committee has approved new legislation, HR 4239, to gut laws set up to protect whales and dolphins from the impacts of offshore oil drilling, even transferring jurisdiction over marine mammals to the agency that issues the permits to oil companies to drill!

The SECURE Energy Act (HR 4239) was introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Republican Majority Whip, and is on a fast track to pass Congress.

Ranking Minority Committee Member Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) stated:  “The Republican energy plan is to cut more corners, write bigger loopholes into the tax code and ignore more environmental standards to keep their rich industry friends happy.  Working Americans are going to pay for this bill with their health, their money, their land, and their quality of life.”

Proposed offshore oil drilling has many serious impacts on whales and dolphins.  Huge oil spills are only one consequence, and drillers would be encouraged by the new legislation to drill in deeper and more dangerous waters for the black gold.  Even if no huge accidents occur, offshore drilling platforms still pollute waters with drilling muds full of toxic heavy metals and chronic oil spills.

Some of the loudest sounds produced by humans come from air guns fired by prospecting oil companies into the seabed in order to find likely oil-bearing rocks below, driving whales and dolphins from feeding grounds and interfering with their own hearing, which is so vital to these animals for communicating and finding food.  

The so-called “SECURE Energy Act” HR 4239 was passed on a party-line vote, with no Democratic support, to be considered by the full House as soon as this week!

The “Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand American Energy,” or SECURE Energy Act (HR 4239), has the following provisions to promote oil drilling at the expense of the marine environment:

Basically, the legislation takes an extreme approach to managing our offshore resources by eliminating and modifying common-sense management tools, putting our coastal communities, economies, marine life, and oceans at risk.

Jurisdiction for marine mammals would be transferred from the current National Marine Fisheries Service in the Dept. of Commerce to the Dept. of the Interior, which issues the permits for offshore oil drilling and seismic air gun surveys.

The Endangered Species Act would be weakened to allow seismic air gun exploration regardless of impacts on the marine environment and endangered whales.

Future presidents would not be able to withdraw areas of the ocean for protected refuges for marine life and marine ecosystems, and the proposed legislation would further revoke current protected areas designated by past presidents.

Future presidents would also be prohibited from using the Antiquities Act (as former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have done) to set up protected marine National Monuments, such as for the outer Hawai’ian Islands and the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument.

Special efforts have been made to protect the fragile Arctic Ocean, where offshore oil exploration and drilling threatens arctic wildlife (due to ocean noise, while oil spills on and under sea ice cannot be adequately cleaned) and also threatens coastal Inuit communities that depend on marine mammals for food.  These safety protections would be eliminated, despite the fact that they have been previously negotiated by the oil industry and Dept. of Interior.

At a time when we need to be burning less oil and using alternatives, the Congress is proposing gutting incentives for alternative energy sources in the Republican-led tax cutting bill while promoting Big Oil to pollute our oceans with crude oil and noise and encouraging greenhouse gases.

There are similar provisions to promote onshore oil drilling regardless of impacts on sensitive public lands.

Republicans beholden to the oil industry are ramming this legislation through Congress as fast as they can.  It is their hope that the public will not get wind of this proposed oil industry legislation or won’t care.


Photo by Maersk Drilling / Creative Commons. 



Please contact your members of Congress, both in the House of Representatives and the US Senate, urging them to VOTE NO on the SECURE Energy Bill (HR 4239 in the House) when it comes to the floors of the House and Senate.  Again, the bill will likely be on the House Floor THIS WEEK!  (The bill will likely have a different number in the US Senate.)

You can go to your Representative’s and Senators’ web pages to email them with your views.  Look for the CONTACT page online.

You can phone your Representative’s and Senators’ offices to express your opposition by calling the Congressional Switchboard Number and asking to be connected to their offices: (202) 224-3121

SAMPLE MESSAGE:  “I live in (town), and I strongly urge you to vote NO on the SECURE Energy Act HR 4239 that would sacrifice our oceans, our wildlife and our public lands to the oil industry.  Congress should promote alternative energy sources, and not try to remove protection regulations designed to protect our environment and our health.  Thank you!"