Despite opposition of offshore drilling, government approves licenses for exploration testing

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HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — The U.S. Department of the Interior approved five licenses for exploration testing of oil off the coast through the National Marine Fisheries Service. 

Jay Ford, a public policy specialist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), says virtually every local county and city that would be affected by the possibility of offshore oil drilling opposes it.

“Both of our counties on the Eastern shore of Virginia, the City of Virginia Beach, the City of Norfolk, the City of Portsmouth, the City of Chesapeake,” Ford said.  “The opposition is overwhelming.”

“Moving forward with seismic testing is an unacceptable step toward offshore drilling,” Ford continued.

Environmental groups including the CBF and the Natural Resources Defense Council say the seismic testing alone threatens sea life.

“We know it will extend to whales to dolphins to sea turtles and even down to plankton,” Ford said.

The Virginia Petroleum Council disagrees. Miles Morin, the industry group’s executive director, cited findings from scientists from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management:  “There has been no documented scientific evidence of noise from air guns used in geological and geophysical (G&G) seismic activities adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities.”

According to BOEM, seismic surveys “should not cause any deaths or injuries to the hearing of marine mammal[s] or sea turtles.”

“So far we’ve been having a debate with no facts. It’s simply been emotions and feelings,” Morin said during an interview on Friday.

Seismic testing involves a boat towing an array of high powered air guns. They shoot a shock wave to the ocean floor, and then instruments measure the reflected wave that comes back. That data will tell whether oil and gas lie beneath.

Morin says he has researched the environmental effects of seismic air testing — and he insists that it’s not harmful to sea life.”There have been billions of miles surveyed in the Gulf of Mexico, and there’s been no evidence of any animals harmed by this.”

Morin says the surveys will determine whether it’s worthwhile for oil companies to drill off our coast. The survey licenses are good for one year.

We’ll continue to follow this story on WAVY.com 
 

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