Environmental activists are up in arms after the Trump administration gave the nod to a planned seismic survey for oil and gas deposits in the Atlantic.
Five companies will receive harassment authorizations needed to conduct a seismic survey from the National Marine Fisheries Service, officials said Friday. They will still need to obtain individual permits from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, part of the Department of the Interior, before they can begin the survey, but those permits are expected to come through.
“President Trump is essentially giving these companies permission to harass, harm and possibly even kill marine life, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale — all in the pursuit of dirty and dangerous offshore oil,” Diane Hoskins of the conservation group Oceana told the Associated Press.
More than 90 percent of coastal communities oppose offshore drilling, she added. East Coast lawmakers agree, saying that any offshore drilling could harm commercial fishing operations and tourism, a huge business along the U.S. coasts.
In a seismic survey, researchers use large compressed air guns to fire blasts into the ocean, then use seismic sensors to measure the sound waves that bounce back off the seabed. The data can be used to create details maps of the ocean floor.
Environmentalists say the noise from a seismic survey can disrupt ocean mammals’ ability to navigate the waters, causing dolphins and whales to beach themselves. Scientists have warned against the surveys in the past, stating that they can cause permanent damage to marine animals in the area.
But advocates say that seismic surveys are already being used to scout locations for offshore wind farms, as well as scientific research.
“These activities are exploration activities,” Nikki Martin, president of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, told Bloomberg. “The assessment of the resource is critical; it’s critical knowledge for the states and critical knowledge for the federal government in determining future decisions regarding offshore exploration and development.”
The American Petroleum Institute, a lobbying group for the oil and gas industries, has praised the administration for moving forward with the harassment authorizations.
If the final approvals with the Department of the Interior go through, the seismic survey would be the first and most extensive of its kind in decades.