The Trump administration is considering letting companies use seismic air guns to look for oil and gas deposits below the Atlantic Ocean, outraging environmentalists and coastal towns and resorts.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says it has gotten five separate requests to carry out the operations.
NOAA admits using the high-powered guns may “incidentally but not intentionally harass” marine mammals and reptiles. If the permits are approved, NOAA says companies must carry out a number of strict rules.
Observers would keep watch
They include placing observers on board ships to watch out for protected species and shut down operations if they are spotted. They also must listen for vocal communications between marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins.
The air guns use incredibly powerful blasts of air to look for oil and gas deep under the ocean floor.
The companies propose searching for possible drilling sites off the Atlantic coast from Delaware south to central Florida.
Environmentalists are furious. They say noise from the guns is one of the loudest man-made sounds created and can kill and injure millions of whales, dolphins, turtles, and other sea animals that depend on sound to communicate and survive.
Coastal towns oppose air guns
“Coastal communities have the most to lose, but unfortunately their overwhelming opposition may be ignored by the Trump administration,” said Nancy Pyne of the conservation group Oceana.
She calls it the first step towards offshore drilling and points to the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico as a major reason this should not be allowed to happen. Officials and business owners in coastal towns up and down the Atlantic also oppose the air guns.
NOAA has given the public 30 days to comment for or against the proposal.
Former President Barack Obama had rejected permits to air blast in the Atlantic. But President Trump signed an executive order in April expanding the search for oil and gas in the Atlantic to help make the U.S. more energy independent.