Seismic testing could happen off the coast of North Carolina. Because of President Donald Trump’s executive order issued on April 28 that puts offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans back on the table, companies are requesting permits to conduct seismic testing. Proponents of offshore drilling are excited at the possibilities, while opponents are sounding the environmental alarm.
Part of the executive order states, “It shall be the policy of the United States to encourage energy exploration and production, including on the Outer Continental Shelf, in order to maintain the Nation’s position as a global energy leader and foster energy security and resilience for the benefit of the American people, while ensuring that any such activity is safe and environmentally responsible.”
President Obama aggressively tried to keep Arctic and Atlantic offshore drilling off-limits as part of his many environmental schemes. In November 2016, Obama’s Department of the Interior announced auctions for new oil and gas drilling rights that excluded the Artic and Atlantic Oceans, and kept the Gulf of Mexico as the only viable offshore drilling area in the United States.
Recently, theverge.com posted an article that said, “Obama indefinitely banned some of the areas in these two oceans from drilling under a 1953 law called the ‘Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.’ In December alone, Obama used the law to safeguard 3.8 million acres of the Atlantic Ocean — from southern Virginia to Cape Cod — and 115 million acres in the Arctic Ocean — including all the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska, and most of the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s northern edge.”
Trump’s executive order calls for his Department of the Interior to conduct a review of Obama’s ban on offshore drilling, as well as looking the possibilities for drilling off the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. Skeptics say that Trump’s order will not lead to actual drilling or even negating Obama’s bans, because Obama used the 1953 law, and that Congress would have to legislate the opportunity to drill in these oceans and elsewhere.
Others say that litigation will almost certainly disrupt the process of any new leases being auctioned. However, on the wings of Trump’s executive order, five companies have made application for permits to conduct seismic testing off the coast of North Carolina.
The NC Coastal Federation is opposed to seismic testing. On its website, it defines seismic testing as “the first step in planning for offshore drilling. They involve the use of air guns to send sonic waves toward the ocean floor to gauge the depth, location and structure of oil and gas beneath the surface.” The Federation and other opponents say that the sonic waves disrupt marine life and their behavior patterns.
The Bureau of Ocean Management in January 2017 denied permits for seismic testing. However, after Trump’s executive order, the companies challenged the denials and won. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is currently receiving public comments regarding seismic testing. The July 6 deadline for public comment has been extended to July 21.
Nikki Martin, president of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, hailed Trump’s executive order and the reversal of the denials of permits for companies wanting to do seismic testing on the Outer Continental Shelf. In a press release Martin said, “On January 6, 2017, the previous Administration announced an unprecedented and short- sighted decision to deny all six permit applications … This Administration’s forward-thinking and rational decision making is refreshing.”
Martin also said, “Offshore seismic surveys have a long history of providing an accurate assessment of our nation’s oil and natural gas resources in an environmentally safe manner, critical to informing an effective national energy strategy and future OCS [Outer Continental Shelf] leasing decisions and plans.”
It will likely not be any time in the immediate future that seismic testing is done off North Carolina’s coast. Leftist environmental groups will use litigation and fear to stymie the testing. But the Trump administration is taking steps to further America’s energy independence, and seismic testing and offshore drilling off the state’s coast could become a reality sooner rather than later.