The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s preferred alternative for new geologic and geophysical (G&G) activity on the South and Mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf contains arbitrary and unnecessary restrictions, three national oil and gas associations said on May 7.
The American Petroleum Institute, National Ocean Industries Association, and International Association of Geophysical Contractors raised the objection in comments they jointly submitted on BOEM’s final programmatic environmental impact statement for what would be the first G&G surveys on the Atlantic OCS since the 1980s.
“Because G&G activities have little documented impact on marine mammals, the mitigation measures endorsed by Alternative B employ speculation to impose potentially substantial operation and economic burdens on future G&G activities that undermine Congress’s clear policy mandate that the Department of the Interior facilitate expeditious development of the OCS,” the associations said.
BOEM said it is preparing the PEIS on the Atlantic OCS from Delaware to Florida just past Daytona Beach and Orlando for G&G surveys for marine minerals and renewable energy as well as oil and gas. “These data would provide information about the location and extent of oil and gas reserves, seafloor conditions for oil and gas or renewable energy installations, and marine minerals deposits off the US Atlantic coast,” it said.
“State-of-the-practice G&G data and information are required for business decisions in furtherance of prospecting for OCS oil and gas in an orderly manner, assessing sites for renewable energy facilities, or using marine mineral resources in the area,” BOEM added. The public comment period for its PEIS covering this proposed G&G activity closed on May 7.
‘An essential step’
“Seismic surveys are safe, highly regulated, and an essential step for exploring for oil and natural gas offshore,” Erik Milito, API’s upstream and industry operations director, said in a separate statement. “We support BOEM’s plan to authorize seismic surveys to explore the Atlantic OCS but have serious concerns about the restrictions proposed.”
He said the only basis for restrictions outlined in Alternative B is a fundamentally flawed projection of animal impacts that BOEM itself says is totally unrealistic. “In its current state, this alternative could discourage investment in essential data gathering efforts. BOEM should either drop Alternative B or make substantial improvements to it,” Milito said.
“The government’s analysis should be based on real-world observations from many decades of research and experience,” he maintained. “The best science and research, including the Interior Department’s own studies, show that seismic surveys have little-to-no effect on marine mammal populations.”
Milito said API supports use of existing measures that are proven to protect marine life during survey operations, and believes BOEM’s Alternative A presents the option that is most supported by the best available science.
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