OCEAN CITY — A renewed effort to open vast areas of ocean floor off the mid-Atlantic coast to potentially dangerous seismic air gun testing led to Maryland’s elected officials firing off a letter this week to Gov. Larry Hogan asking him to intercede on the state’s behalf.
In late April, President Donald Trump signed an executive order reopening vast areas off the mid-Atlantic coast to offshore oil exploration and drilling, renewing a years-long battle that resulted in the previous administration reversing the plan. In June, the Trump administration took initial steps in expediting the plan to explore and potentially drill for oil and gas reserves off the mid-Atlantic coast when he authorized the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to issue as many as five Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) permits, which, if approved, would allow the private sector companies awarded the permits to begin the dangerous practice of seismic air gun testing.
Seismic air gun testing is used to determine what oil and natural gas reserves lie beneath the ocean floor. Seismic air guns essentially shoot blasts of compressed air into the ocean floor each of which is an estimated 100,000 times more intense than the sound of a jet engine. If approved, vessels would tow as many as 30 air guns, which would be fired every 10 seconds continuously 24 hours a day and seven days a week for the duration of the mapping exercise, which could last for several weeks.