The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has denied six pending permits for airgun seismic surveys in Atlantic Ocean planning areas from Virginia to Florida, pleasing conservationists and irritating industry groups. In announcing the decision Friday, BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper said there was no immediate need for such tests now that the Atlantic Program Area was removed last year from President Barack Obama’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022. She said the move was also based on an “abundance of caution.”
(From Daily Press / by Tamara Dietrich)– “We believe that the value of obtaining the geophysical and geological information from new airgun seismic surveys in the Atlantic does not outweigh the potential risks of those surveys’ acoustic pulse impacts on marine life,” Hopper said in a statement.
Also influencing the decision, BOEM said, was the possibility that any data gathered wouldn’t be used or could become outdated before any potential drilling in future, plus the “probable development” of lower-impact testing technology.
The D.C.-based advocacy group Oceana praised BOEM’s decision as part of a transition “away from expanded offshore drilling and toward a cleaner energy economy.”
“We know that seismic airgun blasting is dangerous,” said Oceana campaign director Claire Douglass in a statement. “Seismic airguns create one of the loudest man-made sounds in the ocean, firing intense blasts of compressed air every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks to months on end.”
Kate Addleson, director of Sierra Club Virginia, said airgun testing carries “enormous risks.”
“These risks were detailed in numerous scientific reports and by nearly 100 scientists,” Addleson said. “After a clear scientific consensus, the people spoke and BOEM listened and then did the right thing.
“Virginia’s coastal economy, marine ecosystems and those who live on Virginia’s coast are safer with this harmful testing now off the table,” Addleson added.
But the American Petroleum Institute, a D.C.-based trade group representing the oil and natural gas industries, slammed the decision as “completely disregarding America’s energy security needs” as well as the will of Americans who support increased oil and natural gas production.
“It’s clear that this is a politically driven decision that flies in the face of the best available science,” Erik Milito, API director of Upstream and Industry Operations, said in an email. “As BOEM has reiterated a number of times previously, seismic surveys are a safe, efficient and scientifically proven way to find potential new sources of energy.”
Milito said the move also denies industry the chance to conduct scientific and geologic research that could be of use to academics and to government.