The Trump administration informed on Wednesday that it is moving forward with seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean.
In accordance with the decision, the Department of the Interior will resume its evaluation of applications from six companies seeking permits to conduct geological and geophysical (G&G) activities in the Atlantic Ocean.
“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,” said secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “This will play an important role in the president’s strategy to create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign energy resources.”
The new decision reverses the actions taken by the previous administration that ordered the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to deny the permit applications.
Following the rejection, the six companies filed appeals with the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) to have their applications reinstated.
On Wednesday, BOEM acting director Walter D. Cruickshank asked the IBLA to remand the six Atlantic G&G permit application denials under appeal. The remand would not approve the permits, but would allow BOEM to resume its evaluation to determine whether they will individually be approved or denied.
The new decision has led to the opposition of seismic surveys by several conservation groups, expressing their concerns about the impact on marine life, especially marine mammals.
According to conservation groups, seismic blasts also drive away fish, drastically cutting commercial fishing production.
In its latest statement DoI explained that seismic surveys are not expected to have significant impacts on marine mammal populations or the environment given the use of advanced technology and other safeguards that are currently required.
While the Atlantic was removed from consideration for oil and gas leasing and development in the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, President Trump last month directed the DoI and BOEM to begin development of a new national program, and the information gained from possible seismic surveys in the Atlantic will help inform future decision-making.
President Trump’s Executive Order on the America-First Offshore Energy Strategy directs BOEM to develop a new five-year program for oil and gas exploration in offshore waters and reconsider a number of regulations governing those activities.
In addition, the International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC) welcomed the president’s decision.
IAGC president Nikki Martin said: “On behalf of the IAGC and its member companies, including PGS, TGS, CGG, WesternGeco, GXT/ION and Spectrum, we commend the Department of the Interior for rescinding its previous decision to deny six applications for oil and gas exploration geological & geophysical (G&G) permits for the Mid- and South-Atlantic planning areas. Today’s action to correct the course for sound U.S. energy policy demonstrates this administration’s commitment to science over politics and to lawful procedures over rhetoric.
“The IAGC and its six member companies whole-heartedly support today’s decision. We and our members look forward to the timely and lawful processing of these permits, some of which were filed as long as nine years ago.”