From Michael Stocker’s “Ocean Noise” blog:

“Dear OCR Community and Friends
There are a lot of moving parts right now on the proposal to open up the US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to oil and gas leasing. The issue has been seriously in play since 2008, when the 1982 moratorium on OCS leases was lifted in the last days of the Bush administration. While the actual offshore leases were not really up on the block during the Obama administration, there was suddenly a new reason for wanting to survey the OCS for offshore resources.

The geophysical industry wasted no time in licking their chops on the opportunity to privatize seismic data on resources owned by American citizens. Their argument was launched off the fact that no seismic surveys had been conducted on the savory Atlantic coast since 1972, and that even if we were not going to open up to extraction leasing, it would make sense to know what was out there.

While there may be some merit to updating our geological understanding of the Atlantic OCS, the privatization of this data amongst six different survey companies strains sensibility. This is in light of their need to survey the areas repeatedly (repeatedly and concurrently harassing all marine life in the area) just so each of these companies can all have their own piece of our pie.

This has all been in play for years; the oilmen have been working up to this situation where they pretty much own the directors of the regulatory agencies who would otherwise serve as the gatekeepers of their industry. But now there is a fly in their ointment – the House of Representatives is no longer controlled by their Party.

So with that, the hearings begin. Yesterday the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee under Natural Resources had a hearing on the priorities of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the US Geological Survey (USGS).

The agencies’ apparent contempt for the hearing was evidenced by who did, and who did not show up. BOEM “Acting Director” Walter Cruickshank was on hand (he of the closed “public” meetings with industry), but somehow BSEE Director Scott Angelle couldn’t find the time to do his job – despite the fact that – as his stand-in testified, he had been invited last month, and was in his office during the hearing. USGS wasn’t in attendance at all.

BSEE Director Angelle came up a while back when he was giving out his private cell number to the attendees of industry-sponsored events, stating that he didn’t want any email evidence of business arrangements they may conduct. This was poignantly highlighted by Rep. Jarrod Huffman in the last minute of his inquiry to the stand-in.

We also learned from the hearing that the release of the 2019-2024 Five Year OCS leasing plan will likely occur in the next few weeks (this is the plumb that industry has been drooling over for decades). Wednesday’s complete hearing can be watched above.

Thursday’s hearing was focused on the fate of the North Atlantic Right Whale. This dovetails into the OCS plans because the habitat of the critically endangered whale is “ground-zero” for the Atlantic OCS lease areas, and thus the target of the Mid-Atlantic Geophysical and Geological surveys.

Hear Where We Are: Sound, Ecology, and Sense of PlaceAside from the somewhat combative spectacle of these hearings, they also provide testimony from purported experts in the field – set up by our Representatives. I suspect that this will all be useful in the future, because I don’t see the lease sales or the seismic survey plans moving ahead without a lot of court time.


Michael Stocker

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