Last week the Obama administration announced that it denied all six pending permits to conduct seismic testing for oil and gas reserves in the Atlantic Ocean, handing environmental advocates a long-sought victory in the effort to protect the area from hazards related to offshore energy exploration.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abigail Ross Hopper cited the potential risk to marine life from seismic testing, which involves constantly firing blasts of compressed air into the ocean for weeks and even months on end. The noise from the blasts is so loud that it can be heard up to 2,500 miles away.
The US government’s own estimates found that seismic testing in the Atlantic could injure as many as 138,000 marine mammals like dolphins and whales while disturbing the activities of many other species. In 2015, 75 leading marine scientists sent a letter to President Obama warning that “the magnitude of the proposed seismic activity is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of fish and marine mammal populations in the region, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which approximately only 500 remain.”
Noting that the Obama administration had already removed the portion of the Atlantic that had been targeted for drilling from the national five-year offshore energy plan through 2022, Hopper said that “there is no immediate need for these surveys.” While the area targeted for drilling extended from Virginia through South Carolina, the area targeted for seismic testing stretched from Delaware to Florida.
The companies whose permit requests were denied are CGG Services of France; GX Technology of Houston; PGS, Spectrum Geo and TGS, all headquartered in Norway; and WesternGeco of London.
There’s been widespread opposition to oil and gas exploration and drilling in the coastal communities that would be most directly affected. To date, more than 120 East Coast municipalities, over…