API disappointed in BOEM seismic assessment

The American Petroleum Institute (API) says it is disappointed in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on seismic surveying in the Gulf of Mexico.

The programmatic EIS assesses what environmental impacts would occur in the event of a proposed action, in this case being the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf lease sale.

BOEM has identified eight OCS Planning Areas for possible inclusion in the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, in which this program is already underway. These Draft Proposed Program Areas included:

  • Alaska – including portions of the Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, and Cook Inlet planning areas
  • Atlantic – including portions of the Mid- and South Atlantic planning areas
  • Gulf of Mexico (GOM) – including the Central and Western GOM Planning Areas, and a small portion of the Eastern GOM Planning Area 
  • Areas in the Beaufort and Chukchi Sea as well as the Atlantic - however, they were removed before the 2017-2022 program was finalized. These areas are being considered in development of the new program, which covers the years 2019-2024.

API previously joined the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, the National Ocean Industries Association, and the Offshore Operators Committee to submit detailed comments on BOEM’s Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.  

The API says that the final Programmatic EIS issued today failed to take into account "extensive industry mitigation efforts and use the best available scientific information" in setting new operational measures.

"While we appreciate BOEM moving forward in this process, today’s decision is based on a flawed interpretation of scientific data," said Andy Radford, API Senior Offshore Policy Advisor. “It also disregards the fact that the natural gas and oil industry has been conducting safe, effective seismic research in the Gulf of Mexico for decades with effective mitigation measures that provide strong protections to marine life. We urge BOEM to consider these important facts as this process continues."

API says seismic surveys are a "safe and proven technology" that helps to make offshore energy development safer and more efficient. "Advances in seismic imaging technology and data processing over the last decade have dramatically improved the industry’s ability to locate oil and natural gas offshore," it saus. In addition to the oil and natural gas industry, seismic surveys are commonly used by the US Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation, and the offshore wind industry.

They're also subject to permitting processes to ensure seismic surveys are properly managed and conducted to have minimal impact on the marine environment.

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