Letter: Facts to determine ruling on seismic testing

New Bern Sun Journal | Don Oltz | June 14, 2017

This is a response to the May 13 article “Feds push new seismic testing.” For several years I chaired the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Committee for the Dept. of Interior Minerals (DOI) Management Service (MMS), a part of which is now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (whose current acting director was one of the MMS representatives on the committee during my tenure). The committee reviewed all OCS programs (including programs not related to oil and gas, such as gravel mining) offshore the U.S.A. and made recommendations to the secretary, DOI.

There is provision in the law for participation by states on the committee. There is also provision for the governors of “affected” states to make their wishes known regarding a proposed program. We applauded that input. Somebody was paying attention.

But (been waiting for it, haven’t you) the decisions regarding a proposed program require scientific analyses of data. True, the governors of adjacent affected states are solicited for their opinions. But the nuts and bolts of the program, the experience of the people running the projected program, etc., etc., bear a lot of weight in the DOI decision.

A quote at the end of the SJ article referenced “clients … who have been involved … for a number of years.” But the article includes a graphic “Don’t Drill NC.” So the involvement of these people is to see how they can block drilling and/or seismic acquisition. What science is involved in that conclusion? One of the N.C. coastal organizations in a newsletter recently came up with “If they drill, they will spill.”

Cute? I don’t think so. I asked for an explanation and received no reply. Can these people predict a spill? Or are they saying that every well will have a spill? I can take you to a number of wells with no spills. Severe fines can be a pretty good control. The Gulf of Mexico is one of the world’s largest petroleum provinces. I can take you to beaches in the Gulf of Mexico that have never seen a drop of oil and yet are within sight of both producing and exploration wells. So you have people that spent a “number” of years, but I’ll bet the industry has more years of experience in what actually happens than people outside the industry.

Read the full Letter to the Editor here.