Airguns behind a ship. (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)

The N.C. Division of Coastal Management has asked four companies to submit more information about proposed seismic surveying for offshore oil and gas because the original proposals did not consider the latest scientific studies on the harmful effects to marine life.

Documentation to show that the companies’ plans are consistent with state coastal management rules were submitted and approved in 2015, according to a statement Dec. 22 from the Division of Coastal Management.

Since then, additional studies not previously available have suggested that seismic airgun arrays can significantly affect marine life.

Spectrum Geo Inc., GX Technology, MCNV Marine North America and TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Co. want permission to tow arrays of the airguns behind ships to send pulses to the ocean floor to locate oil and gas deposits.

The N.C. Division of Coastal Management sent the companies letters requiring more information supporting their position that the plans meet state coastal policies.

Gov. Roy Cooper and Michael Regan, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, in August submitted comments in opposition to oil and gas leasing for offshore drilling along North Carolina’s coast.

Cooper and Regan said 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 companies are also seeking federal permits from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

In August, 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 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, 96 were against oil and gas exploration off North Carolina’s coast.

A graphic illustrating the oil and gas leasing process can be found here. 

For more information on BOEM’s five-year oil and gas leasing program, click here.

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