Why Havre de Grace Should Oppose Oil Drilling and Seismic Blasting off Maryland’s Coast

Havre de Grace, one of Harford County’s historic and beautiful towns with a thriving coastal community has a vital opportunity to defend Maryland’s shores and marine life from the threats posed by offshore oil drilling and exploration. Harford County Climate Action is working with the community to ask the Mayor and City Council of Havre de Grace to pass a resolution opposing oil drilling and seismic airgun blasting off Maryland’s shores.

Please call  Mayor Martin at (410) 939-1800 as well as Havre de Grace City Council members and ask them to pass a resolution opposing oil drilling off Maryland’s coast.

Here are some reasons this is important:

  1. Oil drilling would be preceded by seismic blasting.  The only direct effect of seismic blasting on Havre de Grace would be if it destroyed a generation of blue crab larvae, and consequently, affected local crabbers and restaurants.  This doesn’t mean that Havre de Grace can’t take a moral stance against seismic blasting.

According to Oceana, “Seismic airguns are used to find oil and gas deep underneath the ocean floor. Airguns are so loud that they disturb, injure or kill marine life, harm commercial fisheries, and disrupt coastal economies. These blasts are repeated every ten seconds, 24 hours a day, for days and weeks at a time. Seismic airgun testing currently being proposed in the Atlantic could injure 138,000 whales and dolphins and disturb millions more, according to government estimates.

A blue crab in an eelgrass bed in Chesapeake Bay.  Source:  USGS

Seismic airguns are towed behind ships and shoot loud blasts of compressed air through the water and miles into the seabed, which reflect back information about buried oil and gas deposits. These blasts harm marine mammals, sea turtles, fish and other wildlife.

Impacts include temporary and permanent hearing loss, abandonment of habitat, disruption of mating and feeding, and even beach strandings and death. For whales and dolphins, which rely on their hearing to find food, communicate, and reproduce, being able to hear is a life or death matter.”

  1. Oil drilling invariably leads to negative environmental impacts.  Impacts to the Chesapeake Bay would mean many impacts to Havre de Grace.  Drilling off the coast of Maryland would bring “produced pollution” and oil from the inevitable catastrophic spills into the Chesapeake Bay.  “Produced pollution” includes drilling muds, “produced water,” flowline and pipeline leaks.

Oil drilling would likely take place dozens of miles offshore along the Outer Continental Shelf. But under the right meteorological conditions, wind and ocean currents could carry a large spill into the mouth of the Bay and beyond, perhaps as far north as Baltimore, according to Carl Hershner, director of the Center for Coastal Resources Management at the Virginia Institute for Marine Science.

Life in the northern portion of the Bay is not isolated from the waters in the lower Bay, in fact, most species that live in or near the Susquehanna Flats move through the entire Bay watershed, and would be affected by a spill.  Species affected would include migratory species like terns, skimmers, egrets, blue herons, shad, rockfish, marlin and blue crabs.

Will Baker, President of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, wrote last year that a spill in the Atlantic “would be especially devastating to blue crabs.  During the early stages of their lives, crabs float out of the mouth of the Bay into the Atlantic’s waters. The larvae then develop fins and make their way back into the estuary.  One ill-timed oil spill in that region could wipe out an entire year-class of Chesapeake blue crabs, and that would be a disaster,” stated Baker.

How many Havre de Grace businesses and restaurants have themes revolving around Chesapeake Bay blue crabs, ducks, fishing and boating?  How would local restaurants do if all of its seafood were imported from abroad because we had contaminated Bay, Atlantic, and Gulf supplies through oil drilling?

 

  • Oil drilling and its potential problems pose a risk to Havre de Grace property values.

 

The Chesapeake Bay is an economic engine that fuels the state of Maryland.  Economists say a saved Bay is worth nearly $130 Billion, an increase of $22 Billion a year for generations.  

An EPA study indicated that clean water can increase the value of a single-family home 4,000 feet or closer to the shoreline by up to 25 percent;

A 2000 study concluded that improvements in water quality along Maryland’s western shore to levels that meet state bacteria standards could raise property values by six percent (Journal of Environmental Economics and Management)

If a saved Bay is worth so much to the state of Maryland, and so much to Bay area property owners, how much would be lost in the event of an off-shore oil spill?  And if Maryland’s overall GDP is affected, would there not be an impact on Havre de Grace?

  1. Every person, town, county, state, and country should oppose new fossil fuel development.  Climate change is already affecting us all, and it will certainly destroy a livable planet if we do not take aggressive action to move towards a 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and a 100% reduction by 2050.  “Aggressive action” means keeping 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground and moving as quickly as possible towards clean energies like solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, etc.

 

See this link for information on why 80% of known fossil fuel reserves should not be developed:

https://350.org/why-we-need-to-keep-80-percent-of-fossil-fuels-in-the-ground/

 

It appears that if aggressive action to slow climate change is not taken, i.e. a “business as usual” scenario, the planet is on track for average surface temperatures to rise 6°C by the end of the 21st century according to NASA.  In 1880, average global temperature was 13.73C (56.71F). In 2018, it was 14.89 C (58.80F). In 2100, a 6C rise means a global average of 19.73 C (67.51F).

 

The Environmental Protection Agency admits that continuing to burn fossil fuels will result in dramatic temperature increases on earth.  https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/climate-change-science/future-climate-change_.html#Temperature

 

Is there still some doubt that human activity, namely use of fossil fuels, is causing climate change?  Answer: No; See this link for NASA’s list of statements on climate change from top U.S. scientific bodies.  https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

The Pentagon states that climate change is the United States’ leading security threat.

  1. Climate change poses a direct threat to Havre de Grace.  

 

  • Sea level rise and increased precipitation will lead to higher storm surges, more powerful storms, and increased flooding.  Recovery will be expensive for the town. A sea level rise of 6 feet is likely by the end of the century in a “business-as-usual” scenario.  We can anticipate a greatly altered waterfront in Havre de Grace, and a loss of significant parts of historic downtown, should this occur.    
  • More temperature variability and rising temperatures will stress infrastructure such as the town’s watermains, sewer system and roads.
  • A warmer climate will bring more vector borne illnesses such as Lyme Disease, Encephalitis, Malaria, Yellow Fever, Zika Virus, and Dengue.  A warmer atmosphere also increases ground-level ozone, which increases rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
  • Local trees and vegetation will be unsuited to a changed climate.  Climate change is already affecting the animal species living in our area.  According to (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies (UMCES), spring is starting earlier and fall is starting later.  To humans, this might sound great. For plants and animals, whose lives depend on responding to seasonal changes, this isn’t great at all.  “For example, if apple trees bloom too early, a late frost may kill all the flowers. If an oriole arrives from its spring migration too late, it may find that prime nesting areas may have been taken up by other species of birds.  This could interfere with the bird’s ability to find a mate or successfully raise its young.”
  • Warmer air temperatures will warm and acidify water temperatures in the Bay.  This will affect what life can survive in the Bay, which will in turn affect local industries such as fishing, boating, decoy carving, and restaurants.

 

What can citizens do?

Call your Havre de Grace City Councilmember and Mayor Martin at

(410) 939-1800 and ask them to pass a resolution opposing oil drilling off Maryland’s coast.

 

Written by Harford County Climate Action, a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to slowing the effects of climate change through local action.  Find out more at http://www.hcclimateaction.org

 

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