The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the availability of a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for evaluating potential environmental effects of geological and geophysical (G&G) activities within the Gulf of Mexico’s (GOM) Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and adjacent state waters.
BOEM prepared the Programmatic EIS with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) as cooperating agencies.
The Final Programmatic EIS considers G&G activities, including seismic surveys (deep-penetration and high-resolution geophysical), sidescan-sonar surveys, electromagnetic surveys, and geological and geochemical sampling.
The Final Programmatic EIS also evaluates mitigation measures to reduce potential impacts of G&G activities on marine resources, such as sound impacts to marine species and bottom-disturbance impacts on benthic communities and cultural resources.
The statement found that seismic surveys harm significantly marine species, such as dolphins and whales, as the air-gun blasting used involves blasting compressed air down to the seabed, lasting for weeks or months each time.
However, responding to this, International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC) President, Nikki Martin, said that the PEI “jeopardizes one of the most important regions for energy resources, the U.S Gulf of Mexico.”
“While we are still reviewing the details of the final PEIS, it appears to remain overly precautionary with seriously flawed marine mammal effects analysis for seismic activities and is unsupported by best available information, thus leading to the proposed alternative which poses non-scientific and unnecessary restrictions on geophysical surveys.”
The American Petroleum Institute (API) also criticized the PEIS, accusing it for “false interpretation of scientific data.”