The broad local coalitions that formed around protecting our coast from offshore oil drilling have quickly realized that the removal of the Atlantic from federal leasing plans does not mean the end of threats to our coast. Industry applications to conduct seismic testing throughout Southeast waters are still pending and industry spokespeople have reaffirmed their interest in pursuing them.
Seismic testing sends massive air blasts every 15 seconds or so from a boat to the ocean floor. Those blasts bounce back up to the boat and are interpreted to identify potential oil and gas reserves. The blasts also travel through important ecosystems and can cause significant harm to marine mammals and important fish stocks.
In deciding to remove the Atlantic from the federal oil and gas leasing plan for 2017-2022, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) officials cited a host of issues from a drop in oil prices to the small percentage of U.S. oil estimated to be under the Atlantic shelf. Concerns from the Department of Defense about seismic blasts interfering with sonar operations also were a factor, as were the nearly 100 resolutions passed by cities and towns along the coast opposing both drilling and seismic testing. BOEM’s own conclusion was that seismic “may result in low immediate economic benefits for nearby communities.”
These same concerns apply to seismic testing. Given that, locals are reminding the administration that it wasn’t just drilling their communities opposed, but the numerous and various harms that accompany it, including seismic testing.