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CT Turns Out for Hearing on Offshore Drilling

Seismic surveys to locate oil deposits can be especially harmful to whales and dolphins. (WikimediaImages/Pixabay)
Seismic surveys to locate oil deposits can be especially harmful to whales and dolphins. (WikimediaImages/Pixabay)
February 13, 2018

HARTFORD, Conn. – Hundreds of Connecticut residents are in Hartford today to speak out against a proposal to open coastal waters to oil and gas drilling.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of the Interior proposed opening 90 percent of the nation's coastline to drilling. That would include Atlantic waters vital to Connecticut's economy.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees offshore oil leases, has promised the environment would be protected.

But according to Martha Klein, chair of the Sierra Club Connecticut Chapter, concerns over the risk of spills have generated broad, bipartisan opposition to the proposal.

"Potentially we stand to lose billions because of our coastal tourism industry and our fishing industry," Klein says. "And environmentally, it's a terrible concern because of the high risk of accidents."

In 2013 Connecticut's ocean economy contributed almost $4.5 billion to the state's GDP. Supporters of the proposal say it would help ensure the nation's energy independence.

Klein points out that spills are not the only risks. The process of deciding where to drill also is hazardous to marine life. Seismic surveys using underwater explosions to map suspected oil deposits are especially harmful to marine mammals like whales and dolphins.

"We've already seen hundreds or thousands of beachings, animals basically committing suicide because they have to get out of the water because the sound is destroying them," she adds.

She notes that oil transport - by tanker or pipeline - and other oil and gas infrastructure, add further risks.

"We believe that collectively these activities would significantly damage the environment, marine wildlife and coastal economies," she warns.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is accepting public comments on the proposal through March 9.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT