During the time of the Obama Administration, oil drilling was not allowed within 50 miles of the Atlantic coastline. Since President Trump has come to power, this regulation has changed. Now, drilling is allowed within three miles of the coast. With all of this new area available for drilling, oil companies want to test to find out where the oil fields with the most potential are located.
The most common method used by drilling companies is air gun testing. This type of testing uses sound bursts of up to 260 decibels directed at the ocean floor every ten seconds. The sound waves help geologists find dense concentrations of fossil fuels.
Marine scientists and conservationists know that this type of testing is very detrimental to ocean animals. The oil industry and Trump Administration officials know this as well. This week, oil industry groups were given permission to unintentionally harass but not intentional harm ocean animals by using air gun testing. What this means is that when tests are preformed, oil companies will not be held responsible if they accidentally harm marine animals with their testing.
This ruling has infuriated those who work in ocean wildlife conservation. Air gun noise is reported to travel as far as 2,500 miles under the water. Whales are particularly susceptible to powerful noises under the water. Whales and dolphins depend on echo location to navigate through the waters, and sounds from air gun testing may seriously disrupt these animals’ ability to navigate and communicate.
Marine conservationists are most worried about how the air gun testing will harm the populations of the North Atlantic right whale. Currently, only about 440 of these whales remain in the wild. There are only about 100 females of breeding age. Scientists are concerned that if the testing harms or disrupts these whales, they will not be able to breed successfully. This would further endanger these whales who are already on the brink.
Environmental groups, community groups, governors and elected officials in Atlantic states have all come together to oppose these new drilling rules by the Trump Administration. Lawsuits are planned to stop the testing from being allowed so close to the shore.