Proposed US Energy Rules Would Shield WhalesSource: ABC News | 28 February 2014
Proposed federal environmental guidelines released 27 February would protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from offshore seismic testing aimed at sizing up oil and gas reserves from Delaware to Florida.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management outlined that measure and other protections intended to shield marine life if the government allows the testing, which could be a first step in the development of an offshore oil industry in Atlantic waters.
The Obama administration delayed the scheduled leasing of offshore tracts in Virginia and other Atlantic states following the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The leasing was to begin in 2011 but was pushed back to 2017.
The seismic testing is intended to apply new technology to areas that have not been studied in more than 3 decades, and then with equipment that had limited capabilities to detect energy resources hidden below the ocean floor. The energy industry has said the new, more sophisticated seismic surveys would not only give a better picture of oil and gas deposits but also eliminate areas that should not be drilled.
While the industry estimates that oil and natural gas development in the outer continental shelf would create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next couple decades, ocean protection groups contend marine life shouldn’t be exposed to a blast zone up 50 miles off the coast. They have pushed for a delay in the environmental guidelines until a key study is completed.
“By failing to consider relevant science, the Obama administration’s decision could be a death sentence for many marine mammals,” said Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for US Oceans at Oceana.
In a statement, BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau said the department is committed to “balancing the need for understanding offshore energy resources with the protection of the human and marine environment using the best available science as the basis of this environmental review.”