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Trump admin proposes seismic surveys for Atlantic drilling

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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. The current White House needs Marine Mammal Protection Act permits from a specialized branch of the Commerce Department to allow five companies to use the technique.

Environmental groups have long fought against seismic permits as a key strategy to block oil and gas development in the Atlantic, working with a coalition of tourism and fishing industry groups and coast communities. And more than 40,000 local businesses and business associations have publicly opposed it, citing threats to marine life and local economies.

The National Marine Fisheries Service on Monday proposed several permits to injure or otherwise disrupt whales and other marine mammals during seismic testing off the Atlantic coast, part of the Trump administration's efforts to bring offshore drilling to a region previously closed off by former president Barack Obama.

"The fact is that seismic blasting and the drilling that follows represent a serious threat to the coast and oceans and the communities that depend on them", Jasny said. Spotters would watch with binoculars for whales swimming within 500 meters of the sonic arrays.

Jolie Harrison, chief of the permits and conservation division of the NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, said that the agency would have protections for marine life, including mammals such as whales and dolphins. "These surveys will be targeting the same populations of animals". In addition, Obama permanently closed off nearly 6,000 square miles of ocean territory from MA to Virginia, including off New Jersey coast, to drilling. 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. "It's outrageous that the Trump administration is catering to Big Oil by ignoring the needs of wildlife and coastal communities".

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"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", concluded Palmer. The public has 30 days to comment on the proposals.

The proposed authorizations are for Spectrum Geo Inc., TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company, ION GeoVentures, WesternGeco, LLC and CGG.

Knapp, with the business alliance, referenced Trump's words last week that he works for the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris, when he announced the USA would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. Officials and business owners in coastal towns up and down the Atlantic also oppose the air guns.

The move was widely anticipated after President Trump repeatedly vowed on the campaign trail to open up more onshore and offshore federal leases to oil and gas drilling.

Specifically, the order calls for a review of the Five-Year Program (2017-2022) for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf, and directs the administration to fast-track the permitting process for seismic airgun blasting.

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