The N.C. Division of Coastal Management today asked four companies to submit additional information about proposed seismic surveying for offshore oil and gas resource development because the original proposals did not consider the latest scientific studies on the harmful impacts to marine life.
In 2015, the state reviewed four consistency determinations and issued consistency concurrences to Spectrum Geo, Inc, GX Technology, MCNV Marine North America and TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company for seismic surveying in the Atlantic Ocean related to the identification of oil and gas resources off the North Carolina coast. Since that time, additional studies not previously available have demonstrated that the use of seismic airgun arrays has the potential for significant impacts on marine fisheries. To better determine the risk to marine life, the N.C. Division of Coastal Management sent each company a letter requiring each company to provide information supporting their position that the proposed survey activities are consistent with state coastal policies.
On Aug. 17, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and Michael Regan, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality submitted comments in opposition to oil and gas leasing for offshore drilling along North Carolina’s coast. In their comments, Gov. Cooper and Sec. Regan stated that offshore drilling threatens North Carolina’s coastal economy and its environment, while offering little economic benefit to the state.
“New studies published after the state’s initial review indicate seismic testing may have even more significant impacts on North Carolina’s coastal marine life,” said Braxton Davis, director of the N.C. Divisions of Coastal Management and Marine Fisheries. “Based on the new studies, we believe the proposed seismic testing could severely impact North Carolina’s commercial and recreational fisheries, and we are requesting more information for review by state officials and the public.”
The state is seeking the additional information to determine if a proposed coastal project is consistent with policies put in place to protect North Carolina’s coastal resources. The companies are also seeking federal permits from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
In August 2017, the state conducted three public hearings in Wilmington, Morehead City and Manteo to gather comments on the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM’s) request for information and comments on the preparation of the 2019-2024 national outer continental shelf oil and gas leasing program.
The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality sought public input and information on the potential impact of oil and gas exploration on the biological, social, economic and aesthetic values of North Carolina’s coast. In total, 465 people attended the hearings in Wilmington, Morehead City and Manteo. Of the 104 people who spoke at the hearings, 96 spoke against oil and gas exploration off North Carolina’s coast.
A graphic illustrating the Oil and Gas Leasing Process can be found here https://www.boem.gov/BOEM-OCS-Oil-Gas-Leasing-Process/. For more information on BOEM’s five-year oil and gas leasing program, go to https://www.boem.gov/Five-Year-Program/.