Skip to comments.Feds OK first-in-decades oil studies off East Coast
Posted on 07/18/2014 11:21:43 AM PDT by thackney
The Obama administration on Friday gave the oil industry the green light to use air guns and sonic sensors to search for possible oil and gas under Atlantic waters, overriding environmentalists concerned that the seismic research can harm whales and other marine life.
Although geophysical research companies will still have to apply for individual permits to conduct seismic studies along the south- and mid-Atlantic coast and undergo more rigorous environmental scrutiny of their specific plans the Interior Departments formal decision opens the door for the activity.
Fridays move also helps pave the way for possible drilling off the East Coast in the 2020s, by giving the industry a new chance to prove the oil and gas potential of the area right as the Obama administration is assembling a five-year plan for selling offshore energy leases beginning in late 2017.
Nine companies have told the Interior Departments Bureau of Ocean Energy Management they want to do the work, which would represent the first geophysical data collection along the East Coast in more than three decades.
Environmentalists accused the Obama administration of caving to the oil industry by formalizing an approach that would impose modest limitations on the seismic research instead of mandating more rigorous safeguards or barring the activity altogether.
For more than 30 years, the Atlantic coast has been off-limits to offshore drilling, said Oceana campaign director Claire Douglass. Today, our government appears to be folding to the pressure of Big Oil and its big money.
Michael Jasny, director of the Natural Resources Defense Councils Marine Mammal Protection Project, called seismic exploration a gateway drug to offshore drilling.
But the oil industry isnt getting everything it wanted.
The American Petroleum Institute, the National Ocean Industries Association and other groups had unsuccessfully urged the Interior Department to scale back proposed timeouts to watch for animals before ramping up testing and possible requirements that companies shut down activities when dolphins and other animals are nearby.
API officials have called the restrictions arbitrary and unnecessary, asserting they were based on flawed projections about the number of animals that could be hurt.
Operators already take great care to protect wildlife, and the best science and decades of experience prove that there is no danger to marine mammal populations, APIs upstream director, Erik Milito, said Friday. Restrictions that have no scientific basis can easily discourage exploration, private investment and job creation. Regulators should rely only on sound science when setting permit requirements.
Other limitations include closing access to the migratory routes of the endangered North Atlantic right whale and prohibiting multiple seismic surveys from being conducted at the same time.
The administration stopped short of requiring companies to use still-developing, quieter technologies, such as one known as marine vibroseis.
Walter Cruikshank, acting director of the ocean energy bureau, said the agency relied on public comments, scientific research and other evidence in developing the safeguards.
There is a very strong suite of mitigation measures weve developed here . . . that are really aimed at trying to mitigate the impact on wildlife, Cruikshank told reporters on a conference call.
Seismic research is generally conducted with compressed air guns that produce loud, periodic blasts underwater. After the sound waves penetrate the seafloor and bounce back, they are captured by long arrays of sensors towed behind seismic vessels. The resulting data is used to produce detailed, three-dimensional maps that reveal underground geological features and potential reservoirs.
Conservationists say the pulses of sound can injure marine life that are especially reliant on their hearing for navigation, including the roughly 500 North Atlantic right whales still estimated to be alive.
These dynamite-like blasts . . . are loud enough to kill small organisms like fish eggs and larvae at close ranges and can disrupt the behavior of large animals like whales and dolphins from up to 100 miles away, Oceanas Douglass said.
Geophysical survey firms say some of the proposed restrictions could be expensive, forcing them to halt activity and then spend potentially a half day or more repositioning arrays before resuming tests.
Although the oil industry uses seismic studies to look for potential subterranean pockets of crude and gas, the geological and geophysical research covered by the Interior Departments decision also helps identify sand and gravel that can be harvested for restoring coasts. And, increasingly, the data provides data for the planning of offshore renewable energy installations, including where to install wind turbines.
Cruikshank stressed that the Interior Departments move does not authorize any specific geological and geophysical activities; individual companies pursuing the work would have to win permits not just from the ocean energy bureau but also the National Fisheries Service. It also does not suggest any final decisions on oil and gas drilling in the region, he said.
Industry representatives and government officials suggested that Fridays decision could lead to individual seismic studies early next year. But conservationists have threatened to challenge the administrations decision and approach in court, potentially slowing the timeline.
Assessment of Undiscovered Technically Recoverable Oil and Gas Resources of the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf, 2014 Update
Using a geologic play-based assessment methodology, the
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimated a mean of
4.72 billion barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable
oil and a mean of 37.51 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered
technically recoverable natural gas in the Atlantic Outer
Continental Shelf of the United States.
What’s up with this? Strange.
Do you think they should spend another half century just talking about it?
Or finally allow some seismic studies and actually see if it is worth pursuing?
For those wondering about the Sale 220 Area shown off Virginia:
The Bureau initiated the first step for a potential lease sale offshore Virginia. A Call for Information and Interest/Nominations and Notice of Intent to Prepare an EIS (Call/NOI) for Lease Sale 220 was published in the Federal Register on November 13, 2008. The comment period closed January 13, 2009. The area covered by the Call/NOI is about 2.9 million acres offshore Virginia in the Mid-Atlantic Planning Area, and is at least 50 miles offshore.
The Bureau estimates that this area may contain 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
On May 27, 2010, President Obama announced Secretary Salazar’s decision to cancel Sales 215 and 220.
My pie in the sky opinion. If a state has access to natural resources which would benefit not only the residents of their state but the U.S. as well and chooses to not allow their development, that state should not benefit from the same resources currently provided to them by other states.
Maybe Cuba and the help they will be getting from Russia to drill off shore was the incentive they needed to get off their collective rearends.
Has Obama even consulted with the states along the Atlantic coast?
Or, is this just another example of Obama violating States’ Rights?
What does that mean? Are you suggesting the federal government forbid other states of selling resources to them?
There will be years of studies and then possibly years wading thru the permitting process, and these companies will also have to purchase the drilling rights. Sounds good but I am willing to bet that new born children will be adults before the first drop of oil results from this bait and switch scheme. On top of that the Feds will change the rules in the middle of the game just to delay things more. I have seen it first hand.
I’m just shocked Obama would allow this.
Why now, when he’s done everything possible to destroy the oil industry domestically?
That didn't end the conflict so Eisenhower negotiated a deal where the interior continental shelf belongs to each coastal state and the outer shelf belongs to the feds. So the interior shelf is 3 mile out, except for Texas and the Florida gulf coast which is 3 leagues or about 10 miles. The feds own everything outside of that. Also part of this deal was that before the feds drill in federal waters off of a state, the feds have to consult the state and if the state says no, the feds won't drill it. Also part of this deal was that to get approval(votes needed) from the interior states, certain funding acts were set up to benefit all the states, and the money would come from royalties collected by the feds.
Any state that wants to drill in their waters, can. And collect all the royalties. OTOH, if the state allows drilling in federal waters off their shore, they don't get any of the royalty. But they have the risk of a spill fouling their coast.
California drilled in state waters and allowed drilling in federal waters but stopped it after the SB spill in '65. Except the existing platforms were grandfathered and they still drill and frac.
The deal that Eisenhower put in place lasted until the 90s and some coastal states started agitating that they wanted part of the feds royalty, which is commonly called Royalty Sharing. Seems logical, what incentive is there for a state to allow drilling off their state if they don't have the benefit of the royalty, but have all the risk of a spill.
The first attempt to give royalty sharing was CARA and CARA 2000, but the interior states blocked it. Then in 2006 Congress opened Area 181 and South 181 in the Gulf to drilling and gave royalty sharing to TX, LA, MS, and AL. Florida was specifically excluded because they don't allow offshore drilling. But, these states could use this shared royalty only for coastal restoration/protection and hurricane protection.
Subsequently, NC, VA, and MD began to consider drilling if they also could get royalty sharing. But when the Macondo well blew in the gulf in 2010, NC and MD reversed and said no. But VA is still in. But, VA said they wanted to use the shared royalty for roads and that is a big problem. They also said no drilling within 50 miles of their coast and that is a problem..
Meanwhile, Murkowski and Landrieu have control of the Senate Energy Committee and they are hellbent on opening the entire US coast to royalty sharing and allowing the states to use the shared royalty however the state chooses. And as you might guess, LA and AK stand to benefit immensely from royalty sharing.
Everybody is mad because he put a moratorium on offshore drilling after the blowout in the gulf, which lasted a year. There were 3 things that had to be done. The liability cap had to be raised. The blowout preventer problem had to be fixed. And the oilspill collection device had to be put in place.
Obama never said no to drilling the atlantic. He said there would be new seismic studies since none had been done since the early 80s. And before seismic studies were done, an EIS would be done.
There’s a boom off the coast of Newfoundland...according to my bro-in-law. 5 platforms going in.
But will they allow it to be developed?