Offshore drilling update: Approval for seismic testing may come soon

Whether NC's coastal residents want it or not:

The steps to seismic testing in the South Atlantic include approval of the incidental harassment authorizations by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which could then be followed by approval of the permits from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). According to NOAA’s website, the public comment period for proposed seismic permits in the Atlantic closed last July. The comment review and final determination process typically takes, according to the site, one to three months.

“We are working through about 17,000 public comments as expeditiously as possible, but will take the time necessary to ensure that they are all appropriately addressed and that our final decision is based on the best available science,” Kate Brogan, a National Marine Fisheries Service spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

I can't help but stir my tea leaves when a government official says, "best available science." Because they are the ones who decide what's best, what's available, and (of course) what is "science" as opposed to opinion. All that said, both the NOAA and the Marine Fisheries branch are part of a dwindling group of Federal regulatory entities that are still at least trying to do their jobs properly. But that may be about to change:

Since implementing new streamlining measures, like waiving legal reviews for "low impact/low controversy actions not expected to be at risk of litigation," the average processing time overall fell to 6.6 months for IHAs issued from December 2016 to November 2017, Oliver's written testimony said.

The authorizations for the Atlantic, however, are proving more of a challenge.

"We're in the process of evaluating over 117,000 comments that we received on that, many of them of a highly technical, legal, policy nature. So that process has taken a little bit longer than we expect. But we expect within the next few weeks to have made a decision on those authorizations," Oliver told a Senate panel on April 25.

One month later, the energy industry is still waiting. And it is openly chiding the Trump administration over the slow process.

In a recent blog post, Nikki Martin, president of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors and Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, said the permitting "delay is a complete bureaucratic breakdown by federal agencies in what should be an otherwise straightforward process. "Approve or deny is simple and clear."

You know the drill (pardon the pun) by now. Industry complains about a Federal regulatory body or policy, and Trump swoops in, firing people and hiring completely incompetent and ethically-challenged replacements.

Regardless of the science, or the potential damage to ocean species, or the will of the people, Big Oil will (very) likely be making booming noises off the coast of North Carolina before the leaves turn this year.

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