Survey Says…Offshore Seismic is Safe

Forbes | Robert Bradley, Jr. | August 11, 2017

Late last month, Delaware Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons released a joint statementopposing seismic surveying in the Atlantic Ocean. Their worry is that such preparatory drilling work for oil and natural gas below the ocean floor would negatively impact marine life along the Atlantic coast.

Their fears are unfounded. Atlantic drilling would create economic benefits at virtually no environmental cost. As environmental economists understand, wealth is health; that is, economic prosperity redounds to individuals and families in ways that result in longer and better living.

Higher-income individuals eat more fresh foods than lower-income persons, for example. They drive safer cars. More wealth affords more education — and a better environment too.

What is Seismic Surveying?

Here’s how seismic surveying works. A boat tugs along an air gun that fires sound waves towards the ocean floor. When the waves bounce back, seismic detectors aboard the boat measure the waves, giving surveyors the data they need to detect oil and natural gas deposits.

In January, Obama denied permits to six energy companies who had petitioned the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Management to use seismic surveying along the Atlantic coast, from Delaware to Florida. The outgoing administration cited concerns about the safety of marine animals.

The Trump administration’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is now poised to grant five of these permits, subject to public comment. If approved, the permits would allow surveys in areas that haven’t been explored for more than three decades.

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