While the Department of the Interior considers the many comments it received on its proposal to open the Atlantic coast to offshore drilling, the first step toward drilling is already under review and drawing intense opposition. Seismic air gun testing, which is used by the oil industry to gather information for drilling, could begin as soon as this year.
For many, seismic testing represents a first troubling example of how drilling will industrialize our coasts. The sound of one seismic gun going off is equivalent to a jet engine and can be heard for hundreds of miles, causing significant damage to commercially valuable fisheries and estimated injuries or deaths to 130,000 marine mammals. Nine current applications for testing extend from Delaware to Florida along the eastern seaboard – beyond the areas that have been proposed for oil and gas leasing by the Administration – and could allow for almost continuous blasting of this area as companies duplicate their efforts. The duplication is caused, in part, because any information companies acquire is considered proprietary and thus private. This privacy means companies are under no obligation to share their findings with other interested drilling companies, the government, or other stakeholders.
Throughout April, the Interior Department is holding meetings in the affected areas to seek public feedback. Over 30 towns and cities up and down the coast have passed or are actively voting on resolutions against offshore drilling and seismic testing for oil. Given the growing opposition to drilling, coastal communities have understandably asked why we would move forward with seismic testing given its harmful.