Study opens path for seismic surveys off USAC for oil, gas development

Washington (Platts)--27Feb2014/602 pm EST/2302 GMT

The Obama administration on Thursday moved a step closer to allowing the first seismic exploration in decades for oil and gas off the US Atlantic coast, outlining a range of environmental mitigation measures that surveyors would have to follow to avoid negatively impacting wildlife and habitats.

But the announcement, made by the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in a programmatic environmental impact statement, seems sure to raise industry hackles, given the agency's stated desire to impose "the strongest safeguards" for marine life.

Those include requirements to avoid vessel strikes, closed-off areas to protect the migratory route for the endangered North Atlantic right whale, geographic separation of simultaneous seismic airgun surveys and "passive acoustic monitoring" to improve detection of marine mammals prior to seismic airgun surveys.

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