Category Archives: oceans

Fight Destructive Offshore Drilling

Update 9/16/19: Great news – all three bills passed in the House last week! Next, the Senate needs to take action. Thanks to everyone who contacted your members of congress!

Mass Audubon has been working to oppose a damaging expansion in offshore oil and gas drilling proposed by the Trump Administration, since the extraction of oil and gas through our oceans would have severe impacts on fisheries, wildlife habitat, and geological resources.

We had some good news earlier this year when components of the plan involving the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic were blocked in federal court. However, much of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are still at risk from expanded drilling, and the federal government will likely appeal the ruling, so it’s important that we keep fighting for protection of our coastlines.

Humpback whale. Photo credit: NOAA

Now we have a chance to do just that. A major vote in the US House of Representatives is expected this week on federal legislation that could make a big impact. The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act (H.R. 1941) would ban offshore drilling & seismic testing on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Please take a minute to contact your congressperson and ask them to support H.R.1941 when it comes up for their vote. Let them know that this protection is crucial for our vulnerable marine ecosystems and wildlife, like the endangered North Atlantic right whale. You can also remind them that Massachusetts and all of New England depend on a thriving coastal and ocean economy, and that success in turn depends on healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems.

While you’re at it, ask them to support these additional drilling prevention bills, which are also set for votes this week:

The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act (H.R. 1146) would restore protections against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Although the federal court has upheld protection for the Arctic Ocean against drilling, the Refuge could become open for drilling leases as soon as this fall.

The Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act (H.R. 205) would extend protections into the Gulf of Mexico.

Harnessing the Wind: A New Resource for Offshore Planning

The heatwaves we’ve been experiencing this summer are a good excuse to get to the beach, but they’re also a reminder that we’re already starting to experience the impacts of climate change. One of Mass Audubon’s top climate change mitigation priorities is the responsible development and use of offshore wind, which could bring more than 4 gigawatts of clean, renewable energy to Massachusetts.

Offshore wind is a critical component to US emissions reduction and has the potential to create thousands of jobs. But we need to make sure the industry grows responsibly, and set clear guidelines for minimizing environmental impacts.

A North Atlantic right whale and calf

Harnessing the Wind: How to Advance Wind Power Offshore, is a new resource produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council in collaboration with Mass Audubon and other partner groups. This guide outlines how we can tap into US offshore wind potential in a way that’s also protective of ocean life, and identifies the top challenges, along with proposed actions, toward accomplishing that goal.

Whether it’s placing projects outside of sensitive habitat areas or reducing underwater noise, taking these measures up-front will ensure the offshore wind industry continues to grow in a way that works for wildlife, people, and the planet.

Help Protect Our Coasts from Drilling

State legislation protecting Massachusetts waters from offshore oil and gas drilling had its State House hearing last week. The bill, S.448, An Act protecting our coasts from offshore drilling, would limit or prohibit state-level approvals and activities related to offshore drilling, making it more difficult for federal drilling projects to move forward off our coasts.

The US Department of the Interior plans to expand offshore oil and gas leasing off US coastlines. This expansion – not to mention the potential for catastrophic oil spills – off the Massachusetts Outer Continental Shelf could have severe impacts on fisheries, wildlife habitat, and geological resources.

Massachusetts and all of New England depend on a thriving coastal and ocean economy, and that success in turn depends on healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems. This expansion would place at risk natural resources like Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which provides feeding and nursery grounds for species like the endangered humpback and North Atlantic right whale, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, biodiversity hotspots that are home to deep sea corals found nowhere else on Earth. It would also be a big step backwards in our fight against climate change.  

We submitted testimony in support of S.448, and you can help too.  

If your state representative or senator is a member of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, contact them and urge them to report the bill favorably out of committee, so it can continue its path toward being signed into law. Even if your legislator isn’t on the Committee, you can ask them to contact Committee members in favor of the bill.

The mytilus seamount, part of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, is home to a diverse array or corals. Photo credit: NOAA

A federal judge recently upheld permanent protection for certain areas of the Atlantic Ocean, along with nearly all of the Arctic Ocean, against the drilling expansion, but the federal government is appealing that decision. Even in the case of another court victory, much of the Atlantic Ocean is still at risk from expanded drilling. S.448 would provide an added layer of protection to lessen that risk.  

Most of our neighboring New England states are considering similar legislation, and if enacted, these bills collectively could help protect the entire region from offshore drilling-related activity in state waters. 

Contact your legislator today to help pass this bill! 

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – June 3, 2019

Action You Can Take This Week: Support Youth Climate Activists

Save the date! On September 20, youth activists will be holding a global climate strike. Learn how you can support them and how you, too, can participate in a week of action.

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Photo credit: National Park Service

A Green New Deal of Action

Mass Audubon supports the Green New Deal, but the US Senate has been unwilling to seriously discuss the climate’s breakdown. In the meantime, Massachusetts should step up at the state level. The latest Op Ed from our advocacy director dives into this idea.

Photo credit: NOAA

Support for Darker Night Skies

We submitted testimony in favor of legislation aimed at darker night skies. Brightly lit buildings can disorient migratory birds, and reducing unnecessary outdoor lighting would not only help protect wildlife, it would reduce emissions and save money.

A Battered Buffer

Mass Audubon weighed in for this Boston Globe article on the plight of the North Shore’s Great Marsh. The area is one of New England’s most vital coastal ecosystems, but climate change poses a threat to its survival.

Photo credit: Meagan Gonneea, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

Offshore Wind and Whales

With partners, we commented on the Vineyard Wind project’s latest phase of permitting, which deals with marine mammal impacts. Our letter focused on ensuring species like the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale remain protected as the project moves forward.

A North Atlantic right whale and calf

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 28, 2019

Action You Can Take This Week: Compost for the Climate

Did you know food waste makes up one-quarter of our state’s trash? That means biodegradable, plant-based materials are needlessly ending up in landfills and contributing to climate change. But there’s an easy fix – composting. Pledge to start today!Did you know food waste makes up one-quarter of our state’s trash? That means biodegradable, plant-based materials are needlessly ending up in landfills and contributing to climate change. But there’s an easy fix – composting. Pledge to start today!

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Guiding Strong Ocean Management

Our advocacy director Jack Clarke has been reappointed by Governor Baker to the Massachusetts Ocean Advisory Commission. The Commission provides guidance on implementation of the state Ocean Management Plan, along with other ocean management issues.

State Budget Update

The Massachusetts Senate passed their version of the FY20 budget last week, including amendments funding Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum and a needed increase for the CPA Trust Fund. Next, the House and Senate budgets will be reconciled in conference committee

Trailside director Norman Smith preparing to release a snowy owl

Fish and Game Day at the State House

Mass Audubon congratulates former state Senator, Representative, and Environmental Affairs Secretary Bob Durand on his recent appointment to the Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Board.

Bob Durand and Mass Audubon’s Jack Clarke

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 5, 2019

Thank Your Congressperson for Supporting Climate Action

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons user Arthurguo (Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Last week Congress passed the Climate Action Now Act to uphold US commitment to the Paris climate agreement. It’s the first large-scale climate change legislation to pass congress in nearly 10 years, and Massachusetts’ delegation unanimously voted yes. Please take a minute to contact your representative to thank them for taking climate action.

Meeting with Congressman Moulton

Mass Audubon and our environmental partners met with Congressman Seth Moulton last week at his Salem office, where our discussion included topics like conservation funding and regional marine fisheries issues. Learn more about the meeting.

Climate Central

Photo credit: Zeynel Cebeci

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Upholding National Environmental Protections

Green sea turtle photo credit: NOAA

We joined partners in opposing changes in the Navy’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The proposed revision would make it easier to approve projects that adversely affect endangered and threatened species

Coastal Protections at Risk

We also submitted joint comments on proposed changes to the Coastal Zone Management Act, which would weaken state-level review of federal coastal development projects. This is especially problematic at a time when expanded offshore oil and gas drilling has been proposed at the federal level.

Offshore Drilling Expansion Delayed

Humpback whales are among the many species whose habitat could be impacted by an expansion in offshore drilling. Photo credit: NOAA

Good news though – federal plans to expand offshore drilling have been postponed. The delay is largely due to a recent court decision upholding protections in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. While this news is encouraging, a delay doesn’t mean our fight is over, so we’ll be keeping it up.

Poll of the Week

According to a MassInc poll, 68% of Massachusetts voters support the creation of a regional carbon-trading plan for transportation.

Reducing Plastic Bag Pollution Statewide

In Massachusetts, nearly 100 communities have taken action to reduce pollution by passing single-use plastic bag bans. Now, the state legislature has a chance to pass legislation that would create a cohesive, statewide law.

We testified last week before the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture in support of An Act reducing plastic bag pollution (H.771), which would significantly reduce the use of single-use plastic bags across the state.

Over 100 billion plastic shopping bags are consumed in the US each year, and while a small portion are reused or recycled, millions end up in landfills and along roadsides, in waterways, and floating in the ocean.

Marine animals are at risk of ingesting plastic bags they mistake for food, like jellyfish. Green sea turtle photo credit: NOAA

These single-use bags pose a threat to sea turtles, whales, and other marine animals that die from eating plastic bags they mistake for food.  And because they are made from polyethylene, which is made from crude oil and natural gas, plastic bags deplete nonrenewable resources and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Countries across the globe have started getting serious about plastic bags – the UK, Bangladesh, China, and dozens of others have successfully banned or introduced a tax on disposable plastic bags.

Mass Audubon will continue to support communities in their local efforts, but it’s time for Massachusetts to take action at the statewide level to provide consistency for businesses and consumers.

You can help! Please email your state representative and ask them to support H.771. Let them know that we need a comprehensive, statewide policy to reduce single-use plastic bags and the pollution they cause in our oceans and waterways. Reducing the use of these bags statewide will contribute to a shift away from disposable, petroleum-based products.

Offshore Drilling Expansion Partially Blocked

Good news – the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore oil and gas drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans has been blocked in federal court.

Thanks to a lawsuit brought forward by the League of Conservation Voters and ten other conservation and indigenous groups, a federal judge has upheld permanent protection from offshore drilling for select protected areas of the Atlantic Ocean, and nearly all of the Arctic Ocean, as established by President Obama in 2016.

Mass Audubon has been speaking out on this issue too, and while this is decidedly a victory, our work isn’t over. Much of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are still at risk from expanded drilling, and the Trump administration will likely appeal the ruling.

Expanded offshore drilling could threaten species like the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

We have to keep up the opposition! At the national level, the Coastal & Marine Economies Protection Act was introduced in Congress to ban offshore drilling & seismic testing on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. And here in Massachusetts, Mass Audubon supports legislation filed by Cape and Islands Senator Julian Cyr that would prohibit offshore oil and gas drilling in state waters. We’ll keep you posted on opportunities to support these bills as they comes up for hearings and votes.

And save the date – our partners at the Massachusetts chapter of the Surfrider Foundation will be organizing a Boston-area event on May 18 as part of Hands Across the Sand. This global initiative is a chance to stand in solidarity and support protection of our lands and waters from fossil fuel development.

Say No to Seismic Testing

Recently, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) authorized the use of seismic testing for offshore oil and gas resources in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the lawsuit filed by a group of nine Attorneys General, including Massachusetts’ Maura Healey, this decision violates environmental law and has the potential to harm more than 300,000 marine mammals. The group is suing the Trump administration over this decision.

Specifically, the NMFS decision issued Incidental Harassment Authorizations to five private companies for seismic testing for offshore oil and gas exploration in the Mid- and South-Atlantic Ocean. 

A North Atlantic right whale and calf. Photo credit: NOAA

Going forward, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is responsible for permitting geophysical surveys, and makes decisions about energy development in the waters of the outer continental shelf. The seismic testing decision also comes as the federal government is moving forward with a proposal to expand US offshore oil and gas drilling – which we also oppose.

Let BOEM know it would be unacceptable to permit any surveys that allow harmful seismic testing – you can email BOEMPublicAffairs@boem.gov. Our marine species, like the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, are already vulnerable to threats like climate change, and the impacts of these types of tests on their populations could be disastrous.