Trump admin proposes seismic surveys for Atlantic drilling

Some firms have also been known to invite conservation groups to monitor the work or to serve as spotters alerting vessels to the presence of marine life that can be potentially harmed by their work. The National Marine Fisheries Service will take comments on the proposals during a 30-day public comment period.

The Interior Department resumed its permitting process for the surveys under an executive order signed by President Donald Trump.

The Obama Administration had decided not to sell drilling leases or to permit seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.

More than 125 East Coast cities and towns, a range of commercial and recreational fishing groups and an alliance representing 40,000 businesses have publicly opposed air-gun blasting.

In 2015, 75 scientists sent a letter to the former administration warning of "significant, long-lasting, and widespread" harm to east coast marine mammal and fish populations should the blasting be allowed to proceed.

Coastal residents fear the environmental and economic impacts an oil industry would bring to the tourism-rich coast, while industry leaders laud the economic windfall an established offshore industry could add to the state.

The National Marine Fisheries Service said Monday it is seeking permits under the Marine Mammal Protection Act for five companies to use air guns for seismic surveys in the mid-Atlantic, from DE to central Florida.

In the bizarro alt-reality universe of Trumpistan, there's nothing like celebrating the world's oceans by opening them up for oil drilling - and that's just what the oil-stained kleptocrat wants to do by authorizing five companies to search for oil off the Atlantic Coast - from Florida to DE - using loud seismic airgun blasts that hurt whales, dolphins and other animals.

After NOAA grants authorization for the incidental takes, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would authorize geological and geophysical (G&G) permits good for one year. Spotters would watch with binoculars for whales swimming within 500 meters of the sonic arrays.

"Seismic testing is the precursor to drilling", Michael Jasny, the director of the National Resources Defense Council's Marine Mammal Protection Project, told reporters during a press call Monday.

He called that "alternative science" and nonsensical behavior by an agency under pressure from Trump. The area around Cape Hatteras is not included in NOAA's critical habitat designation for right whales, nor is seismic testing prohibited there during any season.

Nancy Pyne, a campaign director for Oceana, said the risk is elevated because of the steady stream of Trump initiatives aimed at unraveling the environmental legacy of his predecessor, Barack Obama. "It's outrageous that the Trump administration is catering to Big Oil by ignoring the needs of wildlife and coastal communities".

Industry representatives said they welcomed the publication of the proposed Incidental Harassment Authorizations for seismic surveys.

According to the government's own estimates, seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could injure as many as 138,000 marine mammals like dolphins and whales, while disturbing the vital activities of millions more. Reviving the process brings back permits that were sought a year ago from the Obama administration by three Houston-based geophysical companies - WesternGeco LLC, ION GeoVentures, and Spectrum Geo Inc. - plus CGG, Paris, France, and TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company, Asker, Norway.

"Today's decision by the Trump administration should be applauded by us all", said Fred Palmer, senior fellow for energy and climate at the non-partisan Heartland Institute.

The move comes even as communities up and down the Atlantic Seaboard have said loud and clear they are not interested.

The permits cover the Atlantic Ocean from the New Jersey-Delaware border to the middle of Florida.

  • Zachary Reyes