Trump administration proposes use of seismic air guns to locate oil and gas reserves beneath ocean floor

The Trump administration has proposed to allow several companies to use seismic air guns to search for oil and gas reserves beneath the Atlantic Ocean floor, in yet another reversal of the policies followed by the Obama Administration.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is asking for Marine Mammal Protection Act permits to allow five companies to conduct the seismic surveys with the air guns, which were considered dangerous to certain types of marine wildlife, according to a federal register notice, which is to be published today.

The testing had been blocked by the Obama administration, but president Trump signed an executive order in April that aimed to open the door to more offshore drilling. Currently, there were no drilling rigs off the east coast of the US, and it will be years before oil was located.

Interior secretary Ryan Zinke followed up on the executive order with an order of his own on 11 May for opening up seismic testing.

''You should be excited,'' Zinke told attendees at an offshore drilling conference in Houston last month.

''If you're in the oil and gas and energy segment in this society the stars are lined up,'' he said. ''We're going to make jobs, we're going to bring the economy ahead.''

The government will take public comments on the drilling proposal for 60 days.

The air guns are loud and can disturb or injure endangered whales and other marine mammals and also increase the risk of calves being separated from their mothers. According to environmental groups and many East Coast lawmakers opposed to the surveys, air-gun noise could injure marine life and harm commercial fishing and tourism.

The oil and gas industry has pushed for the surveys, which would map potential drilling sites from Delaware to central Florida. No surveys had been conducted in the region for at least 30 years.

Seismic surveys are also useful in locating sites for offshore wind structures, identifying potential seafloor hazards and locating sand and gravel resources for beach restoration.