The Trump administration is considering letting six companies test for oil and natural gas off the Atlantic coast.
(From The Hill / By Timothy Cama) — The Wednesday decision by the Interior Department is an early step toward potential drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, reversing an Obama administration policy to reject such applications.
“Seismic surveying helps a variety of federal and state partners better understand our nation’s offshore areas, including locating offshore hazards, siting of wind turbines, as well as offshore energy development,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement.
“Allowing this scientific pursuit enables us to safely identify and evaluate resources that belong to the American people.”
The Wednesday announcement does not necessarily mean that any permits will be issued, since they still need to go through an approval process.
The six companies had previously sought seismic testing approvals, but the Obama administration rejected them in January, leading the companies to appeal to an Interior board.
Interior is now asking that board of administrative judges to allow the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management another chance to consider the requests.
Zinke is presenting the policy change as fulfilling President Trump’s executive order signed last month to expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling.
Seismic testing would allow the oil industry to research for the first time in three decades what resources could be under the ocean floor.
Any permits to drill in the Atlantic would be years away, following numerous federal approvals.
Environmental advocates have long opposed seismic testing in the Atlantic, both because of the harm they say it causes to wildlife in the ocean and the potential that it would lead to drilling.
Oceana says seismic testing creates loud noises that can be heard for thousands of miles, which can injure marine mammals such as whales and dolphins.