The Trump administration is set to propose allowing several companies to use seismic air guns to search for oil and gas reserves beneath the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.
According to a Federal Register notice set for publication on Tuesday, the National Marine Fisheries Service is asking for Marine Mammal Protection Act permits allowing five companies to conduct the seismic surveys with the air guns, which are considered dangerous to certain types of marine wildlife.
The Obama administration had blocked that testing. But President Trump signed an executive order in April that aims to open the door to more offshore drilling. Currently, there are no drilling rigs off the east coast of the U.S., and it will take years of testing to locate the oil.
Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with 'thank you, Georgia' MORE followed up on the executive order with an order of his own on May 11 setting in motion the seismic testing.
“You should be excited,” Zinke told attendees at an offshore drilling conference in Houston last month.
“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.”
Environmentalists, who have long fought against Atlantic drilling, blasted the seismic testing proposal on Monday.
The Southern Environmental Law Center called seismic testing “risky” and said it would “pave the way for offshore drilling, which would be a direct hit to our economy, environment, communities and way of life.”
“The American people own these Atlantic waters. This is the first step towards drilling them,” said Michael Jasny, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“It's a license for energy companies—in their relentless drive for more fossil fuels—to devastate marine wildlife.”
The government will take public comments on the drilling proposal for 30 days.
—This post has been updated.