Another Exaggeration By Sue and Settle Plaintiffs

 Editor’s Note:  Advocates of Sue and Settle recognize that it is easier to win non-science based regulation in court than it is through the rulemaking process. 

Sue and Settle  plaintiffs also recognize that if they  file enough suits , and if  the DOJ continues to settle,  then inch-by-inch, year-by-year and law-suit-by-law suit, the plaintiffs win over the long run. In the case described below plaintiffs–even though  they received numerous unearned concessions– are now exaggerating  the alleged transgressions which lead to the settlement.  In particular there has been and will continue to be exploration in the Eastern  Gulf of Mexico,  operating procedures presently in effect already require the  avoidance of  marine mammals in the conduct of seismic operations and contrary to a number of statements by the plaintiffs, or their agents, the petroleum industry has been instrumental in the development of  marine vibroseis.

One would hope that the aforementioned exaggerations will not continue into plaintiff’s discussions with the defendants when it comes to the implementation of the settlement!

See a related post on OIRA Watch.

CRE encourages its readers to post their views on the statements made by  plaintiffs regarding the  settlement in the space provided below–posts can be made anonymously. 

Oil companies will curb use of air guns that torment marine mammals

By John Upton


Sperm whale

Finally, some peace and quiet.

Whales, dolphins, and manatees will finally enjoy some peace and quiet in parts of the Gulf of Mexico following a legal settlement that will restrict the use of oil industry air guns.

As if dodging oil spills and dead zones in the Gulf isn’t bad enough, the marine mammals there are also subjected to deafening pulses of noise fired from boats searching for new oil fields to drill. “These super-loud airblasts hurt whales and dolphins,” said Miyoko Sakashita of the Center for Biological Diversity in a statement. “The seismic surveys sound like an underwater explosion, causing deafness and stress that can disrupt whales’ behaviors and even lead to strandings.”

The legal settlement filed Thursday with a federal court will block the use of the sonar guns in parts of the Gulf until the end of 2015. It will also add manatees to the list of species whose presence requires an automatic silencing of sonar blasts. From the Associated Press:

Oil and gas companies working in the Gulf of Mexico have agreed not to use seismic surveys for the next 2 ½ years in three areas considered critical to whales and along the coast during the peak calving season for bottlenose dolphins.

“The very fact of an agreement on this issue is without precedent. There has not been any settlement made with the oil and gas industry on seismic issues here — or, to my knowledge, anywhere in the world,” said Michael Jasny, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Marine Mammal Protection Project.

He said the surveys, in which ships slowly tow arrays of air guns through the water, firing them every 10 to 12 seconds for weeks or months, can reduce whales’ eating and keep baby dolphins from bonding with their mothers. …

The 30-month period will give the government time for environmental studies and give the industry time for research into alternatives, both required as part of the agreement, said Jasny.

The agreement should help the Gulf’s wildlife hear themselves think — and stay alive.

6 comments. Leave a Reply

  1. Anonymous

    What was the motivation for the Department of Justice to settle the case; is it a precedent?

    • Anonymous

      I am listening.

  2. Anonymous

    IAGC comments on settlement filed in Gulf of Mexico Seismic Survey Litigation
    Saturday, 22 June 2013

    A motion has been files in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by all parties involved in the litigation concerning seismic surveying in the US Gulf of Mexico (GOM). The action seeks the Court’s approval to settle the matter1. The International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC) offers the following comments on the proposed settlement:

    “We are pleased that the parties to this litigation have come together and proposed a settlement to the Court,” said Chip Gill, President of IAGC.

    “NRDC and other environmental organizations have speculated that marine seismic surveys harm whales and dolphins, but the science and four decades of experience show that we do not,” continued Gill. As NOAA Fisheries, the agency charged by Congress to administer the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and which is the US authority on the science behind these matters, states in a public filing last year regarding a permit for a seismic survey, “To date, there is no evidence that serious injury, death or stranding by marine mammals can occur from exposure to airgun pulses, even in the case of large airgun arrays.2”

    In spite of this, industry employs a number of robust mitigation measures to further reduce the negligible risk of harm to marine mammals. “Some of the mitigation measures in the settlement agreement are voluntarily employed by industry around the world. Many of the others have been employed by industry in the GOM for the last several years.”

    Seismic surveys are a critical tool of modern oil and gas exploration, development and production. Their data allow the industry to image the subsurface and discern characteristics of the rock five or more miles beneath the earth. This subsurface imaging is a key tool in reducing or eliminating associated economic, safety and environmental risks.

    Since the proposed settlement was filed, some news stories on this settlement erroneously state that the oil and gas industry has agreed not to conduct seismic surveys in large areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Commenting on these, Gill stated, “Under the settlement agreement, permitting of seismic surveys in most of the Eastern Gulf Planning Area of the Gulf of Mexico (EGOM) will continue. There are a few designated areas of the EGOM where for the next 2 1/2 years permits will not be issued. These are all areas where no lease sales are scheduled and where the prospective areas have recently been surveyed using modern surveying technology.

    “IAGC members look forward to working with the agencies to ensure that seismic operations in the Gulf of Mexico continue to be conducted in an operationally effective and environmentally responsible manner,” said Gill.

    IAGC intervened in the case on behalf of the federal government, along with the American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and the U.S. Oil & Gas Association.

    IAGC is the international trade association representing the industry that provides geophysical services (geophysical data acquisition, seismic data ownership and licensing, geophysical data processing and interpretation, and associated service and product providers) to the oil and gas industry. For more information visit

    1 Link to the Motion for Approval of the Settlement Agreement (and supporting materials):

    2 NOAA Fisheries, May 11, 2012, Notice of Issuance of Incidental Take Authorization, 77 FR 27720 (May 11, 2012) at page 27723

  3. CRE
  4. What Does This Mean?

    Drawn from the Motion to Settle

    What does this mean? I have extracted this from the settlement proceedings.

    BOEM has agreed to undertake certain steps during the stay that Plaintiffs believe will inform the ongoing MMPA, NEPA, and ESA processes and mitigate the alleged adverse impacts of seismic activities on marine mammals. See Agreement ¶¶ IV, V, VII, VIII, IX. For example, BOEM will implement new permit application information requirements intended to assist in determining (a) whether the proposed seismic survey is unnecessarily duplicative of prior surveys, and (b) that the airguns or other energy sources employed during the proposed survey will operate at the lowest practicable levels. See Agreement ¶¶ IV.A-B. BOEM has also agreed to consider, in permit-specific NEPA analyses for proposed deep penetration seismic permits in the Gulf, the appropriateness of prescribing additional marine mammal mitigation measures, including: a seasonal restriction on certain seismic activities in coastal waters; an expansion of existing mitigation measures to cover manatees and to apply in all federal waters in the Gulf; observance of certain minimum separation distances between concurrently-operating seismic sources under specified conditions; restrictions on seismic activity in the portions of Plaintiffs’ areas of concern falling within the Gulf Eastern Planning Area; and an increase in the use of passive acoustic monitoring to detect marine mammals.

  5. Anonymous

    Settlement Filed in Gulf of Mexico Seismic Surveying Litigation


    Brian Straessle | 202.682.8114 | straessleb@api.orgShareThisWASHINGTON, June 20, 2013 ─ A motion was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana today by all parties involved in litigation concerning seismic surveying in the Gulf of Mexico said API Director of Upstream and Industry Operations Erik Milito.

    “We are pleased that the parties to this litigation were able to work together to resolve this matter,” said Milito. “Modern offshore oil and natural gas exploration requires the use of seismic surveys to feasibly and accurately prospect for oil and natural gas reserves offshore.”

    The sound produced during seismic surveys is comparable in magnitude to many naturally occurring and other man-made ocean sound sources, including wave action, lightning strikes, marine life, and shipping. Four decades of world-wide seismic surveying activity and scientific research on marine mammals have shown no evidence that sound from seismic activities has resulted in injury to any marine mammal species. Nevertheless, the industry employs a number of robust mitigation measures to further reduce the negligible risk of harm to marine mammals and has committed in this settlement to continuing them voluntarily even when not legally required.

    “Industry looks forward to working with government regulators to ensure that seismic operations in the Gulf of Mexico continue to be conducted in an operationally effective and environmentally responsible manner,” said Milito.

    API intervened in the case on behalf of the federal government, along with the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and the U.S. Oil & Gas Association.

    API is a national trade association that represents all segments of America’s technology-driven oil and natural gas industry. Its more than 500 members – including large integrated companies, exploration and production, refining, marketing, pipeline, and marine businesses, and service and supply firms – provide most of the nation’s energy. The industry also supports 9.2 million U.S. jobs and 7.7 percent of the U.S. economy, delivers $85 million a day in revenue to our government, and, since 2000, has invested over $2 trillion in U.S. capital projects to advance all forms of energy, including alternatives.

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