March 19, 2018
Board members of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast met this month with officials of the federal agencies that hold the future of the Atlantic Coast in their hands. With the support of over 42,000 Atlantic Coast businesses and 500,000 commercial fishing families, BAPAC is viewed by the federal agencies and an important voice opposing seismic testing and drilling for oil off the Atlantic Coast.
On March 5th, four members of the BAPAC Board met with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). This U.S. Department of Interior agency will decide if exploration for offshore oil in the Atlantic is permitted using seismic airgun blasting and if any parts of the Atlantic Ocean will be included in a new five-year oil leasing plan. BOEM’s Acting Director and several of his staff met with the BAPAC group: Frank Knapp (president and CEO), Vicki Clark (Chair), Tom Kies (Vice Chair) and Amy MacKown (board member).
Then on March 15th, BAPAC President Frank Knapp and fellow board member Laura Habr met with four key National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) officials. This Department of Commerce agency is responsible for producing the Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) needed before any offshore oil exploration is approved. The IHAs are specific mitigation efforts seismic testing companies would have to follow to reduce the number of marine mammals killed, hurt or harassed during the exploration process. The NMFS also has the ability not to give IHA approval.
If the IHAs are given to BOEM, then BOEM must make the decision to grant permits for areas of the Atlantic Ocean for oil exploration or deny the seismic testing permits as it did in January of 2017. This could happen soon.
The next step would typically be the approval of areas in the Atlantic for oil drilling or the removal of all the Atlantic from the new five-year oil leasing plan as BOEM did in March of 2016.
The meetings BAPAC had this month primarily focused on the most immediate threat to the Atlantic Coast economy, the destructive seismic airgun blasting to explore for oil. Five permits for seismic testing have been submitted.
BAPAC, which has submitted official comments on seismic testing and oil drilling, re-emphasized is opposition to seismic testing and offshore oil drilling. However concerning seismic testing if approved, “BAPAC insists that any approved IHA applications and seismic permits mandate that the exploration process result in the least environmental damage as possible to minimize the negative impact on other businesses.”
At these meetings, the BAPAC representatives zeroed in on steps seismic companies should be required to protect fish and invertebrates, require liability of seismic testing companies toward any other business that loses revenue due to the exploration and the use of alternative exploration technologies to dramatically reduce destruction to marine life and thus local economies.
BAPAC will continue to lead the business community’s opposition to seismic testing and offshore drilling in the Atlantic.