Trump set to allow drilling for oil off the US Atlantic coast for first time

Permits allowing 'dynamite-like blasts going off every ten seconds for weeks or months on end' look set to be granted to companies that want to search for oil

Ian Johnston
Environment Correspondent
Wednesday 07 June 2017 12:01

The Trump administration is paving the way for drilling for oil to start off the US east coast for the first time, environmentalists have warned.

The US National Marine Fisheries Service said it had received requests from five companies to allow seismic surveys of the seabed with airguns, despite the “harassment” this causes wildlife, particularly marine mammals. The fisheries service has now invited public comments on its plan to issue permits ahead of a decision later this year.

Donald Trump has made clear his desire to boost production of fossil fuels in the US, with repeated pledges to revitalise the coal industry and the issuing of an executive order in April designed to increase offshore drilling for oil.

The Southern Environmental Law Centre pointed out that 120 cities and towns along the Atlantic coast have passed resolutions opposing seismic tests and offshore drilling.

Sierra Weaver, of the centre, said: “If the Administration continues to push forward risky seismic blasting, it will pave the way for offshore drilling, which would be a direct hit to our economy, environment, communities, and way of life.

“And even before the drilling gets underway, seismic blasting would do significant harm to our robust commercial fishing industry and endangered whales over vast areas of the ocean.

“The coast said ‘no’ to the last President when he tried to impose seismic blasting and offshore drilling on our communities, and we say no to this one, too.”

The centre said that any proposed activity in the sea was not legally allowed to have more than a “negligible impact” on marine mammals.

It added that 75 scientists had concluded that seismic blasting could cause “significant, long-lasting and widespread” harm to fish and marine mammals.

“This process involves dynamite-like blasts going off every ten seconds for weeks or months on end,” the centre added.

But, as The Hill political news website pointed out, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told delegates at a conference on offshore drilling in Houston in May that they should be “excited” by the administration’s plans.

“If you’re in the oil and gas and energy segment in this society … the stars are lined up,” he said. “We’re going to make jobs, we’re going to bring the economy ahead.”

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