Trump’s America First Energy Plan Puts Foreign Companies First, Marine Species Last
Oil surveys in the Atlantic Ocean could harm marine life without benefiting the US economy.
Few days go by without President Trump touting his “America First” agenda, which includes his ambitions to dramatically ramp up offshore drilling for oil and natural gas.
There’s some irony, then, that the first beneficiaries of these initiatives could be mostly foreign-based companies that stand to reap millions of dollars in revenue from conducting oil and gas seismic surveys in the waters off the East Coast.
An investigation by The Revelator reveals that four of these seismic survey companies are based overseas. Only one is based in the United States. The surveys are highly speculative ventures, to be conducted in a region thought to hold relatively low oil and gas reserves and appear unlikely to proceed without significant upfront funding from oil companies.
Our investigation also shows that despite decades of research on the impact of noise on marine mammals and other wildlife, there has never been a robust, ecosystem-wide examination of its effects. This gap in the understanding of regional impacts of seismic surveys on an array of marine life is contributing to ongoing debate within the marine science community on their impacts on oceanic species.
The oil and gas industry and the federally funded National Science Foundation, along with Columbia University’s prestigious Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, say the seismic testing causes no lasting harm to marine life. But other marine biologists and environmentalists say there is increasing evidence showing that the surveys do cause significant harm and therefore should not be conducted in the Atlantic.
“The (industry) claims there is no demonstrated effect,” says Douglas Nowacek, associate professor of conservation technology at Duke University Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, North Carolina. “But nobody has looked” thoroughly enough.
Opening up the Atlantic to Oil and Gas
The National Marine Fisheries Service is currently reviewing the applications to conduct seismic surveys spanning 330,000 square miles of the Atlantic between New Jersey and Florida.