The Trump Administration is set to bring the Atlantic coast one step closer to energy exploration and development, as the National Marine Fisheries Service is expected to request five Marine Mammal Protection Act permits for companies to engage to seismic testing to determine how much oil and natural gas reserves exist in the Atlantic Outer-Continental Shelf (OCS).
The Atlantic OCS lies off the shores of the mid-Atlantic states, stretching from Virginia to Georgia. Previous testing, completed about 30 years ago, showed the Atlantic OCS could hold as much as 4.7 billion barrels of oil and 37 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, but some experts believe the reserves could be far greater.
Seismic testing is opposed by the Coastal Conservation League, which has caused the process “risky.”
Retired Capt. James McCormick, a Bronze and Silver Star recipient and program director of Vets4Energy, however, said the testing is vital to our energy security.
"Having access to current information is crucial to making intelligent decisions," said McCormick. "Relying on mapping made 30 years ago just doesn’t make sense. Current reconnaissance using modern technology will tell us exactly what energy exists offshore.”
The administration’s actions are the latest step in the its “America First Energy Plan,” which is a sharp detour from the energy policies of the Obama Administration, which had blocked seismic testing.
On April 28, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order implementing "an America-first offshore energy strategy." Among other items, that executive order calls on the Secretary of the Interior to "develop and implement, in coordination with the Secretary of Commerce and to the maximum extent permitted by law, a streamlined permitting approach for privately funded seismic data research and collection aimed at expeditiously determining the offshore energy resource potential of the United States within the Planning Areas."
Fred Palmer, senior fellow for energy and climate at The Heartland Institute, a 33-year-old national nonprofit research and education organization, said the administration’s decision should be “applauded by us all.”
“More than any president in modern times, President Trump understands the importance of fossil fuel development for our future well-being, prosperity and quality of life for all Americans,” Palmer told Palmetto Business Daily. “This future is clearly spelled out in the President's America First Energy Plan which recognizes that we succeed in the United States because of our use of fossil fuels, not in spite of them.
When the Obama Administration blocked seismic testing in January, the Coastal Conservation League said the testing “would have decimated the lives of our beloved marine mammals and the well-being of our rich fisheries.”
Lowcountry resident William L. Schachte, Real Admiral U.S. Navy (ret)., the volunteer chairman of South Carolina Vets4Energy, said such concerns “put fear above sound science.”
“According to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, there is ‘no documented scientific evidence of noise from seismic activities adversely affecting marine animal populations,’” said Schachte.
“The American people can be confident that the permits will be conditioned to protect marine life and the natural environment around them, even as the fossil fuels produced for use by all Americans improves the human environment where we live and work,” said Palmer.