The Baltimore Sun
July 7, 2017
By Scott Dance
Gov. Larry Hogan said this week he’s against gas drilling off of Maryland’s coast, and as President Donald Trump’s administration considers seismic testing to search for energy reserves, state officials are asking the federal government to more closely study its impact.
The Trump administration last month sought permission under federal wildlife protection laws to use loud air guns to collect data on potential sites for offshore oil and gas production.
“I’m not in favor of offshore drilling,” Hogan told reporters Thursday, adding that there are many hurdles before it could come close to reality. The Republican governor had not previously taken a public stance on offshore drilling, which had been shelved under former President Barack Obama. Hogan has sometimes declined to weigh in on Trump administration policies.
Mark Belton, Hogan’s secretary of Natural Resources, sent a request to federal wildlife officials asking for a review of how seismic testing could harm whales, dolphins and turtles, commercial fisheries and recreational activity.
Five energy companies had asked for permission to perform the seismic tests, which involve firing intense blasts of compressed air.
Public comments on the permit applications were set to be due Thursday, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week extended the deadline to July 21.
Belton told NOAA officials the state’s “concerns include potential impacts to the commercial and recreational fisheries, and the health and welfare of marine mammals and wildlife.
“Maryland municipalities such as Ocean City and Berlin have also expressed their objections through local resolutions against seismic testing that show cause for further consultation and review,” he added.
Domestic energy exploration looked to have a fresh start when Trump signed an executive order in April directing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review a five-year plan Obama signed in the final weeks of his administration. That plan blocked new oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic, from Virginia to South Carolina, and in the Arctic.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has said he would challenge Trump’s executive order if he deemed it necessary.