Trump said to advance seismic tests for oil in Atlantic waters

November 30, 2018 by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The Trump administration is taking a major step toward allowing a first-in-a-generation seismic search for oil and gas under Atlantic waters, despite protests that the geological tests involve loud air gun blasts that will harm whales, dolphins and other animals.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is set to issue "incidental harassment authorizations" allowing seismic surveys proposed by five companies that permit them to disturb marine mammals that are otherwise protected by federal law, according to three people familiar with the activity who asked not to be named before a formal announcement.

The firms—including TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Co. ASA and Schlumberger Ltd. subsidiary WesternGeco Ltd. - still must win individual permits from the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management before they can conduct the work, but those are widely expected under President Donald Trump, who has made "energy dominance" a signature goal.

The seismic surveys to identify oil and gas reserves could be conducted in Atlantic Ocean waters along the U.S. East Coast, from Delaware to central Florida.

The research involves periodic blasts from compressed air guns, which send out that penetrate the sea floor. When the sound waves bounce back, they are captured by sensors towed behind seismic vessels. The resulting data is used to produce detailed, three-dimensional maps of underground geological features.

Conservationists say the blasts are so loud they jeopardize the hearing of dolphins, cause whales to beach themselves and disrupt animals' mating and feeding habits. Scientists have warned that the surveys could cause long-lasting damage to marine animals, including the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.

If ultimately approved, the surveys will mark another Trump administration reversal of an Obama-era decision in the name of energy priorities. The Obama administration denied pending seismic applications in January 2017.

Trump sought to streamline government permitting of seismic surveys in an April 2017 executive order. Within days, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had issued an order resuming evaluation of seismic permit applications.

Explore further: Obama admin blocks seismic surveys in Atlantic Ocean

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rderkis
not rated yet Nov 30, 2018
So what? It's like when President Trump advocated for coal. He knew that coal was going the way of the dinosaurs very soon. Oil is on it's way out to.
A smart politician will take the side that gets him to most votes especially when his stand really means nothing in the long haul.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.