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Officials Seek More Detail On Seismic Testing

The North Atlantic right whale is is one of the species of most concern in regard to seismic surveying. Photo: Canadian Wildlife Federation

RALEIGH — Four companies have been asked to submit additional information about proposed seismic surveying for offshore oil and gas resource development because the original proposals did not consider the latest scientific studies on the harmful impacts to marine life, the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management announced Friday.

According to a press release from DCM, the state has asked for the additional information to determine if a proposed coastal project is consistent with policies put in place to protect North Carolina’s coastal resources. The companies are also seeking federal permits from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

“New studies published after the state’s initial review indicate seismic testing may have even more significant impacts on North Carolina’s coastal marine life,” Braxton Davis, director of the DCM and Marine Fisheries, said in a statement. “Based on the new studies, we believe the proposed seismic testing could severely impact North Carolina’s commercial and recreational fisheries, and we are requesting more information for review by state officials and the public.”

In 2015, the state reviewed four consistency determinations and issued consistency concurrences to Spectrum Geo, Inc., GX Technology, MCNV Marine North America and TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company for seismic surveying in the Atlantic Ocean related to the identification of oil and gas resources off the North Carolina coast.

Since then, additional studies previously not available have demonstrated that the use of seismic airgun arrays has the potential for significant impacts on marine fisheries. To better determine the risk to marine life, DCM sent each company a letter requiring each company to provide information supporting their position that the proposed survey activities are consistent with state coastal policies.

On Aug. 17, Gov. Roy Cooper and Michael Regan, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, submitted comments in opposition to oil and gas leasing for offshore drilling along North Carolina’s coast. In their comments, Cooper and Regan stated that offshore drilling threatens North Carolina’s coastal economy and its environment, while offering little economic benefit to the state.

In August 2017, the state conducted public hearings in Wilmington, Morehead City and Manteo to gather comments on the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s, or BOEM’s, request for information and comments on the preparation of the 2019-2024 national outer continental shelf oil and gas leasing program.

The DEQ sought public input and information on the potential impact of oil and gas exploration on the biological, social, economic and aesthetic values of North Carolina’s coast. In total, 465 people attended the hearings in Wilmington, Morehead City and Manteo. Of the 104 people who spoke at the hearings, 96 spoke against oil and gas exploration off North Carolina’s coast.

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The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.