September 2017 - Issue 9 - Volume 35
IAGC accuses US government of undermining seismic service industry ?
The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Gulf of Mexico Final Environmental Impact Statement Preferred Alternative for Geophysical & Geological Activities puts energy exploration at risk, said the International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC).
The agency’s recently published preferred alternative in the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) identifies the most protective mitigation measures and the strongest safeguards to reduce or eliminate impacts to marine life. Mitigation efforts include special closure areas to protect the main migratory route for the endangered North Atlantic right whale, geographic separation of simultaneous seismic airgun surveys, and passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) to supplement visual observers and improve detection of marine mammals prior to and during seismic airgun surveys.
Nikki Martin, president of the IAGC that represents 125 geophysical companies, said that any such measures would place an unnecessary burden on seismic contractors. ‘The final PEIS jeopardizes one of the most important regions for energy resources, the US Gulf of Mexico (GoM). In choosing its preferred alternative, the agency disregarded 50 years of successful seismic survey exploration alongside vibrant thriving marine ecosystems in the GoM, and issued a final PEIS that ignores the best available science.
‘The final PEIS appears to remain overly precautionary with seriously flawed marine mammal effects analysis for seismic activities and is unsupported by best available information, thus leading to the proposed alternative which poses non-scientific and unnecessary restrictions on geophysical surveys.
‘Mitigation measures for the sake of “precaution” based on unsubstantiated claims from anti-energy development interests should have no basis in US statute or regulation and threaten the economic and operational feasibility of performing geophysical surveys in areas ripe for updated data to support future lease sales and production.’
She added that the arbitrary four-month near-shore closure in all coastal waters, including state waters, ‘has no scientific merit or environmental benefit and should be precluded from the BOEM’s Record of Decision.
‘Last year when the BOEM issued its draft PEIS, the industry urged the agency to rely on science and risk-based regulations consistent with existing practices which are both effective and operationally feasible and not bow to the political pressure of the anti-oil and gas agenda which refuses to look at the long-standing history of environmentally safe seismic operations in the Gulf of Mexico.’
Martin went on to claim that the proposed measures would harm the $2.94 billion G&G industry during a period when it has suffered significantly after a prolonged period of spending reductions from oil and gas companies.
‘For nearly eight decades, geophysical surveys have been conducted in the GoM, including extensive activity for the past 50 years, and there is no documented scientific evidence of this activity adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities. Geophysical surveys have taken place alongside multiple industries, including successful fishing and tourism industries, and within a thriving ecosystem with an abundance of marine life.
She said that the IAGC would be appealing to the Trump Administration not to implement the measures.
‘IAGC will review the PEIS in detail and work with the Trump Administration to encourage BOEM to issue a Record of Decision that reflects the Administration’s commitment to rational decision making based on a clear-eyed review of the best available science and recognizes the positive, critical contributions of geophysical surveys in the GOM for locating and producing safe affordable energy.’