Obama Administration May Open Up Atlantic to Seismic Testing

Yves here. Another entry in the “What could go wrong?” category. You can see Obama continues to curry favor with as many powerful groups as possible before leaving office.

By Charles Kennedy of OilPrice. Originally published at OilPrice

A report expected to be released on February 27 or 28 could allow the early stages of oil exploration to move forward on the U.S. Atlantic seaboard, which has long been off limits for oil and gas drilling. The Department of Interior will publish its final environmental analysis, which will clear a major hurdle on the way towards allowing the seismic testing off the East Coast in decades. The report is expected to be greeted with strong pushback from environmentalists.

At issue is whether or not Interior’s environmental analysis adequately takes into account the effect of seismic testing on whales, dolphins, and other marine animals. Seismic testing involves blasting sound waves to the seabed, which give engineers detailed 3-D maps that can inform where the best places to drill might be. However, the acoustic disturbance can harm marine life, and the National Marine Fisheries Service is developing guidelines on seismic testing. Environmental groups argue that Interior is moving forward before those guidelines are published.

And opposition is not just coming from environmentalists. Nine Senators sent a joint letter to Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell on February 26, arguing that seismic testing should not be allowed until the best available science is known, including the incorporation of NMFS data.

While the environmental analysis will not green light seismic testing outright, it will be a key determinant in how the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management evaluates the 13 pending permits hoping to begin work. The Department of Interior develops five-year plans on which blocks of ocean it will auction off to oil companies. There are no Atlantic blocks in the current five-year plan, but Interior’s next moves may have implications for what they include in the 2017-2022 plan.

The Atlantic seaboard is expected to hold substantial oil reserves, but until detailed seismic surveys are conducted, the specifics are unknown. Environmental groups hope that by preventing seismic testing, they can stop oil drilling in the Atlantic before it gets started.

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  1. kimsarah

    Well, the Atlantic has been ignored while the Pacific gets all the glory for profit-potential.
    Our gov’t is not even concerned about radiation in the Pacific from Fukushima. It’s worse than the response to the Gulf BP oil spill. Not even to mention the West Virginia chemical spill and coal ash spills in North Carolina. Why the neoliberal elitist corporatists are hell-bent on destroying the environment, I don’t know. Again, it’s not just about making a dollar at everyone’s expense, it’s about punctuating the profit with pure punishment. Christie would be well-suited as an environmental president.
    Meanwhile, an FYI update on the oft-ignored Pacific enviro woes:

    1. nycTerrierist

      Indeed. Obama selling out the earth for thirty-bizzillion pieces of silver…

      his idea of a ‘retirement’ plan?

  2. Vatch

    Well of course they want to do seismic testing in the Atlantic, so they can drill for more oil. People need energy, oil provides energy, and the number of people in the United States and the World keeps rising. Overpopulation is the elephant in the living room that most people are too embarrassed to talk about. The consequences for life in the oceans are unimportant compared to the wants and needs of the 7 billion, soon to be 9 billion.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Overpopulation is the elephant in the living room that most people are too embarrassed to talk about.

      Yep, particularly most governments.

    2. different clue

      Overconsumption by many is the other elephant in the room. Ownership of government by the transnational Overclass is the third elephant in the room, because they keep civilization and society designed on purpose in order to extract, monetize, and sell as much matter as possible in order to increase their power by increasing their weaponizable wealth.

      By the way, I think the transnational Overclass and its various butlers have long been thinking about the Overpopulation Elephant. I believe they have long been thinking about how to arrange for the convenient deaths of 6 or 7 or 8 billion people and make it look like an accident. Fostering such processes as antibiotic immunity of pathogenic bacteria, the ongoing radioleakage from Fukushima and elsewhere, carbon skydumping to create enough global warming and ocean acidation as to kill the rest of us while they survive in bunkered comfort, etc.; is what they may well have been doing on purpose all this time.

  3. diptherio

    We are the sociopaths of the Animal Kingdom. If it is indeed true that humans are evolved apes, I guess it’s probably also true that Jeffery Dahmer was an evolved human….

    1. different clue

      That may be true for you. That was not true for the Eucological Terraforming Indian Nations and many other groups of people.

  4. washunate

    I wonder if there is anyone who will actually defend the Obama Administration on the substance of its environmental policy?

  5. washunate

    P.S., Man Google is good. There is literally an ad for the Keystone XL pipeline running at the top of the website. Yay oil pipelines!

  6. susan the other

    And after the seismic testing, the offshore fracking (which will follow) which, as everyone knows, triggers earthquakes and earthquakes destabilize the continental shelf enough to damage nuclear plants, which are all already dangerously antiquated and need to be replaced but won’t be, which also too will cause fukushima-style devastation near our great population centers and this will all probably happen just as it becomes clear that this sort of tragedy cannot be fixed and Japan slowly becomes an uninhabitable chain of islands…all of which can be anticipated, which makes this so egregious.

  7. allcoppedout

    You just have to admire the persistence of the oil industry. First they kept the price of an abundant supply high and now they seek an abundant new supply of their material now we know we shouldn’t use any. And how we all enjoy living on our knees in this fair democracy like the good slaves we are.

  8. JerseyJeffersonian

    Well, it was kind of heartening to see that both of my home state of New Jersey’s Federal Senators, Menendez and Booker, signed that letter. But then, the little devil who sits on my shoulder, whispering cynical musings into my ear, planted the thought in my head that maybe they were just puttin’ it out there that Big Energy has to come across with a whole lotta those sweet, sweet dollars for “campaign” funds in order for them to be persuaded that their expressed trepidations were groundless after all.

    Steve Bell, cartoonist for The Guardian, would after all have a field day caricaturing both of these neo-liberal twits in the same fashion as he applies to their British counterparts; i.e., by portraying them sheathed by giant condoms. And you all know what giant condoms sheathe, don’t you?

    And maybe there will not be any significant deposits of methane clathrate on the continental shelf of the Eastern US (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methane_clathrate) that might be disturbed through drilling, fracking, what have you. Of course, if there were, and these activities produced major releases of the greenhouse gas, methane, well, let’s get the party started. If the climate warms, there will be more need for energy to provide air conditioning, hence a better argument for drilling, fracking, what have you. Huzzah!

    1. different clue

      Yes, and more melting away of ice from the Arctic Ocean and etc., permitting vast new exploration and drilling all over that. And Obama will collect even more money from a grateful oil industry after leaving office.

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