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Environmental ruling won’t have seismic implications

Wed 09 Aug 2017 by David Foxwell

Environmental ruling won’t have seismic implications



David Foxwell looks at the potential implications of a recent report about the alleged effects of seismic surveys on marine mammals

Representatives from the offshore oil and gas industry and environmental groups have expressed disappointment after the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in the US issued a long-awaited environmental impact statement (EIS) on seismic surveys in the Gulf of Mexico.

The aim of the EIS was to determine what effect, if any, seismic surveys have on marine mammals and how these effects might be mitigated. The report outlines potential mitigation measures – including banning seismic surveys in some areas and reducing the level of seismic activity that is permissible every year. One way that they might be countered is to close coastal waters to exploration activity at certain times. The oil industry thinks the report goes too far – environmentalists believe the measures don’t go far enough. What’s your view?

Put simply, the EIS suggests that seismic surveys of the type carried out when exploring for oil can significantly affect marine mammals. The long-awaited review comes in response to a court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmental groups. Its release comes as President Trump seeks to expand offshore drilling in federal waters.

The analysis finds that millions of mammals in the Gulf of Mexico – including endangered whales – could be injured and adversely affected in other ways by seismic surveys.

Responding to the report, the American Petroleum Institute (API) said the EIS “failed to take into account extensive industry mitigation efforts and use the best available scientific information in setting new operational measures.” It said the decision was based on a flawed interpretation of scientific data, and disregards the fact that the oil and gas industry has been conducting safe, effective seismic research in the Gulf of Mexico for decades. “A rigorous permitting process ensures that seismic surveys are properly managed and conducted so they have minimal impact on the marine environment,” said the API.

The International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC) said BOEM had “disregarded 50 years of successful seismic survey exploration and issued an EIS that ignores the best available science.”

In the IAGC’s view, BOEM’s report is “overly precautionary,” with “seriously flawed” marine mammal effects analysis. “Mitigation measures for the sake of ‘precaution’ based on unsubstantiated claims from anti-energy development interests should have no basis in US statute or regulation,” it said. “An arbitrary four-month near-shore closure in all coastal waters, including state waters, has no scientific merit or environmental benefit.

“There is no documented scientific evidence of this activity adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities. Geophysical surveys have taken place for decades,” said the IAGC, which said it will review the EIS in detail and work with the Trump administration to encourage BOEM to issue a Record of Decision that reflects Trump’s commitment to the further development of the offshore oil and gas industry in the US.

You can find more details about the EIS at:

www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-08-04/pdf/2017-16421.pdf

www.boem.gov/GOM-G-G-PEIS/