Seismic surveys critical part if the US is to harness its energy potential
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in early August published its final programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS), evaluating the environmental impacts of geological & geophysical surveys on marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico region.
According to the bureau, the EIS establishes a framework for BOEM to guide subsequent National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analyses of site-specific actions while identifying and analyzing appropriate mitigation measures to be used during future G&G activities on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in support of oil and gas, renewable energy, and marine mineral resource programs.
Using a tiering process based on this programmatic evaluation, BOEM will address the impacts of future site-specific actions in subsequent NEPA evaluations.
The EIS release came as the U.S. President Donald Trump is seeking to expand offshore drilling in federal waters. It is a response to a court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Biological Diversity, Gulf Restoration Network and Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice.
The extensive report was not very well received by environmentalist groups nor by the oil and gas industry. In fact, this was a rare occasion that environmentalists and the oil and gas industry agreed on something, with both sides expressing disappointment by the report’s findings.
Namely, while the oil and gas industry claimed the report was not based on scientific facts and as such it is putting energy exploration at risk, the environmentalists claimed that BOEM did not do enough to protect the marine mammals from the seismic surveys.
According to Earthjustice, a non-profit law organization dedicated to environmental issues, the report outlines possible mitigation measures, including closure areas where seismic blasting would be banned, and reductions in the amount of activity permissible each year.