Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Seismic Tests Are First Steps to Drilling
The application of seismic surveys to ocean environments has continually been a point of heightened controversy. According to the National Resources Defense Council, ocean noise pollution from seismic surveys affects at least 55 marine species, several marine mammals and over 20 commercially valuable fish. The noise from seismic surveys has been known to carry up to 100,000 square miles through ocean environments. Marine mammals are especially at risk, as their hearing can be permanently damaged or even eliminated.
Although seismic surveys may seem pretty benign when compared to the drilling and transport of oil nestled beneath offshore waters, I think it’s clear the true concern has little to do with the impacts of seismic surveys, but more with the ultimate purpose of the surveys themselves.
The bigger picture clearly shows that a survey today will probably equal an offshore oil well tomorrow. It’s kind of like that children’s story If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff. As most of you probably know, the story seamlessly purveys the troubles that can arise from the innocent act of giving a mouse something as harmless as a cookie. According to the story, this gift will eventually lead to the mouse wanting a glass of milk, a straw, a napkin, a mirror to clean his whiskers, scissors to give himself a trim and onwards until he’s going to just plain want another cookie.
In a way, this can be applied to the ever-polemic issue of offshore oil drilling. How, after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill two years ago (which we still have yet to determine the true environmental impacts of) can we be considering seismic surveys? These surveys are obviously only going to lead to lease auctions, prospecting and drilling. Can we afford this risk? Have we forgotten that oil streamed into our ocean, unabated, for three months as a result of the Deepwater Horizon? We gave a lot of mice a lot of cookies, and it didn’t seem to get us anywhere. In fact, I might venture to say that we’ve traveled backwards considerably (and the mice are asking for more cookies).
North Carolina’s coast is not unaccustomed to the prospect of offshore oil drilling off its coast. Back in the late 1980s, Mobil was in the process of obtaining lease blocks directly east of Oregon Inlet, directly adjacent to one of the most prolific fishing areas in the Atlantic. Given the nearly 10,000 jobs that depend on the fishing industry in Dare County, Mobil was eventually sent packing by the local community. Though we have managed to skirt the issue of oil companies acquiring more lease blocks in the mid-Atlantic, it’s pretty apparent that the issue hasn’t gone away.
There will always be risks with offshore oil drilling - and plenty of wells have been dug without so much as a hiccup. But, just as Exxon-Valdez and the Deepwater Horizon spills have illustrated, the risk really is too great. The business of weaving complex oil extraction infrastructure through such a fragile environment can’t be expected to be foolproof. Perhaps we should take a step back, and see how many cookies we are really willing to give away.
There will be a public comment meeting on the seismic surveys and the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement in Wilmington on April 26 at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside, 301 N. Water St..
Posted by OBX Outfitters at 4:11 AM