Trump administration approves controversial oil testing method in Gulf of Mexico
The Trump administration on Thursday formally approved a decision allow the continued use of a controversial method known as seismic testing to search for oil and gas deposits in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued a record of decision that allowed for continued permitting for the testing in the Gulf’s Outer Continental Shelf.
Seismic testing uses blasts from air guns to try to detect the deposits and is controversial among environmentalists because of its effects on wildlife.
The Thursday decision by BOEM rejected alternatives that would have reduced the testing or stop the issuance of new permits, though it did include some measures aimed at reducing its impacts, including monitoring certain species.
“The mitigation measures chosen at this stage will help minimize the impacts of [geological and geophysical] activities on marine resources in the Gulf and adjacent state waters,” Mike Celata, director of BOEM’s Gulf of Mexico office in New Orleans, said in a statement.
However, critics argued that the agency didn’t do enough to protect endangered species like the Bryde’s whale, of which there were fewer than 100 remaining as of last year.
“They could have adopted an alternative that would have authorized a lower level of activity, required activities to cease when they see a marine mammal in the area [or] prohibit it entirely in certain habitat areas,” Kristen Monsell, legal director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Oceans program, told The Hill.
“Seismic airgun blasting itself causes harm to marine mammals and fish and all sorts of other critters in the ocean itself, but it’s kind of like a double whammy because it’s a prelude to more drilling,” Monsell added.
The decision is one of several measures taken by the Trump administration to advance oil and gas drilling on public lands and in public waters before President-elect Joe Biden, who has vowed not to issue new drilling permits, takes office.
The administration also recently finalized a rollback of safety regulations for offshore drilling in the Arctic and is pushing ahead toward selling oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
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